February 2022

Engaging with ASTRO – Getting the most out of your ASTRO membership

By Jeff M. Michalski, MD, MBA, FASTRO, ASTRO President-elect

Getting involved with ASTRO is the best way to ensure that your Society is representing your needs and the needs of our members. There are many ways to become involved, and I am excited to share with you a few suggestions, so please read on to learn how you too can get involved.

One of the most obvious ways to engage with ASTRO is to volunteer for a committee. This is a formalized process that begins with a “call for volunteers” in March — which is why I am authoring this blog today. As ASTRO president-elect, one of my first responsibilities is to review the list of committee members and volunteers that come in through the call. Staff liaisons and committee chairs vet the volunteer list to ensure no conflict of interest exists and to ensure diversity of occupation, gender, race disease-site specialty, practice type, etc. So, please be sure your ASTRO profile is up to date. The Call for Volunteers will be announced in the March 2, ASTROgram. Be sure to click on the link in the announcement to view the more than 30 committees that are accepting volunteers ranging from bylaws and ethics to communications, health policy, education, research and more!

Are you concerned that you may be too junior in the field to get involved? Recent data show that 35% of volunteers are 10 years or less out of residency. My first volunteer opportunity came in 1997 when I was six years out of residency. I joined the ASTRO Communications Committee and learned about the issues that were confronting our society and how membership could drive change in our specialty.

In addition to participating on a committee, there are many other ways to increase your involvement and engagement with ASTRO.

  • Journals reviewer: Peer review is an integral part of scholarly publishing and is also a great way to get involved with an ASTRO journal. The journals also offer two reviewer training programs, including the Resident Peer Reviewer Training Program and the Practical Radiation Oncology Reviewer Apprenticeship.
  • Share your voice and expertise: Provide comments on ASTRO guidelines and white papers. The calls for comment are disseminated in the weekly ASTROgrams and on ASTRO.org.
  • Participate in surveys: ASTRO uses the data from surveys to better serve our membership, including enhancing existing programs, creating new initiatives and improving the membership experience.
  • Enjoy the benefits of mentorship with ASTRO’s new program, MentorMatch. Whether you’re a mentor or a mentee, mentorships are beneficial to all parties involved and a different way to get more involved with the Society and your fellow members.
  • ASTRO has a robust and active social media presence. Follow the Society on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to share content, converse across platforms and stay abreast of hot topics.
  • Join the conversations on the ROhub: This exclusive member forum is built to enhance networking and information sharing among ASTRO members. I encourage you to start a thread or comment on an existing one. The two-way dialogue facilitated on the ROhub is a great way to keep a pulse on hot button issues affecting your colleagues and a great source for networking.
  • Participate in grassroots advocacy efforts: Help make an impact on national and state legislation by becoming a radiation oncology advocate.
  • Become an APEx surveyor: ASTRO’s accreditation program seeks members to serve as site surveyors. APEx surveyors participate in a one-day facility visit as part of the accreditation process.

No matter your interests, there are many ways you can engage with your Society and be an active member of ASTRO. Still not sure where to start? Please reach out to me directly at Jeff.Michalski@astro.org. I’d be thrilled to hear from you and discuss the opportunities available.

Learn more about the committee service selection process.

Posted: February 15, 2022 | 0 comments

Best Practices for Residency Applicant Review and Selection

By Rachel B. Jimenez, MD;1 Curtiland Deville, Jr., MD;2 Chelsea C. Pinnix, MD, PhD;3 and Iris C. Gibbs, MD4

When embarking on the residency selection process for your training program, it is important to recognize that attracting applicants with relevant attributes and experiences is vital for shoring up the strength of our specialty while meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse patient population. A holistic review, applied at all stages of the selection process, can be an effective way to ensure that qualified applicants are not overlooked. Below, we provide some do’s and don’ts to consider during each phase of the recruitment season, followed by additional resources for context and further reading.


  1. Be consistent:
    • Use standardized questions across all interviewees to promote fairness and uniformity in an interview setting.
    • Identify the most important skills and attributes of desirable applicants in advance of the residency selection process.
    • Consider which skills and attributes are trainable or acquirable through your training program (e.g., research skills) and which are not trainable and constitute proficiencies expected upon entry (e.g., empathy, communication skills).
    • Generate a rubric of selection criteria. Circulate the rubric among members of the selection committee for their feedback and encourage use of the rubric in all phases of the selection process from screening and interviews to final selection.
  2. Promote awareness:
    • Provide implicit bias training for all members of the residency selection process to promote awareness and mitigate the effects of unconscious bias.
    • Educate the committee about local, institutional and national representation trends and strategies to enhance diversity and inclusion.
  3. Encourage multiple perspectives:
    • Form a diverse residency selection committee (ethnicity/race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, academic level, position focus) that offers broad and multi-faceted perspectives on the applicant pool.
    • Foster an environment of open communication that allows members of the selection committee to offer their opinions in a safe and respectful manner.
  4. Context matters:
    • When evaluating the strengths/weaknesses of an applicant’s experiences (e.g., strength of prior research experience or prestige of a letter writer), consider the opportunities available to that applicant in their given training environment and if they have made the most of the opportunities to which they reasonably have access. Reward distance traveled.


  1. Avoid inappropriate questions:
    • Do not inquire about an applicant’s racial or ethnic identity, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or parental status.  At times, a candidate may voluntarily share this information so you may simply acknowledge it and move on to the next question. It is not a good practice to ask follow-up questions, even if it is volunteered by the applicant. Similarly, avoid commenting on someone’s physical appearance or inquiring about where else the applicant applied or where they plan to rank your program. This information should have no bearing on the applicant’s candidacy as a resident physician.
  2. Don’t anchor:
    • Avoid focusing on a single strength or weakness in a candidate’s application. If an applicant meets screening criteria for an interview, despite fewer strengths in one domain or because of a particular accomplishment, avoid drawing upon that same item for subsequent considerations of their candidacy.
  3. Diversity is not a quota:
    • Resist the pitfalls of “checking a box.” Invest in individuals and be inclusive.

For additional reading:

Best Practices for Conducting Residency Program Interviews
Diversity Trends by Sex and Underrepresented in Medicine Status Among U.S. Radiation and Medical Oncology Faculty Over 5 Decades
Impact of Holistic Review on Student Interview Pool Diversity
Linguistic Biases in Letters of Recommendation for Radiation Oncology Residency Applicants from 2015 to 2019
Potential Implications of the New USMLE Step 1 Pass/Fail Format for Diversity Within Radiation Oncology


1. Assistant Professor and Associate Residency Program Director, Harvard Radiation Oncology Program; President, Association for Program Directors in Radiation Oncology
2. Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences, Johns Hopkins University; ASTRO Board Representative Ex-officio, Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
3. Associate Professor and Residency Program Director, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Vice-president, Association for Program Directors in Radiation Oncology
4. Professor of Radiation Oncology and Associate Dean of MD Admissions, Stanford Medicine; former Director of Education and Residency Program Director, Stanford Department of Radiation Oncology

Posted: February 9, 2022 | 1 comments