Why get involved in ACR leadership?
During residency training, time becomes quite valuable- we only have a relatively short window to master the clinical subject matter and learn a wide breadth of information in order to have a future successful practice treating patients.
It is also important to focus on other areas of career development, such as research. This is not only important for our own knowledge and contribution to advancement of our specialties, but also it has become increasingly important in obtaining a job, particularly for those pursuing an academic career. So why get involved in leadership, and why at the ACR- especially for a radiation oncology resident?
While I do spend a great deal of my time on a variety of research interests, as there remain so many clinical questions that need to be answered and explored, I have also found that the success of radiation oncology as a key component of cancer care requires interest and support on much broader levels. For example, studies continue to show that more conformal radiotherapy techniques allow for an increased therapeutic ratio- i.e. taking a tumor to a higher needed dose, while protecting surrounding normal tissue from toxicity. However, if we do not have funding and support for the development of and access to this technology, this is a true disservice to our patients. Professional organizations such as the ACR are instrumental in advocating for our specialty at the national level, so that we can continue to develop, research, and access ways to improve radiation therapy treatments for our patients.
The mission of the ACR promotes research, education, and advocacy. I have found it an excellent platform to promote radiation oncology topics, such as the development of research grant funding and enthusiasm to develop an exciting new educational tool. Additionally, the annual meeting offers a wonderful program for residents and fellows to meet, to discuss and learn about important topics, and to gain access to important career development strategies such as networking. Additionally, the ACR allows for collaboration not only with other radiation oncologists across the nation but also with radiologists, a specialty very closely aligned with ours in terms of the professional and technical components. This allows for a stronger combined voice.
Of course, the ACR is not the only venue to get involved in professional leadership. One can consider other national groups, or I also encourage you to reach out to your state chapters; I have also been fortunate to serve as leadership to the resident/fellow sections of the WSRS and WSMA. There are many opportunities to support interest in advocacy and leadership, and the earlier you are able to start, the better- but it is never too late!
By Meghan Macomber, MD, MS, ACR Resident and Fellow Section radiation oncology representative and chief radiation oncology resident at University of Washington School of Medicine