September 1997

Summer Hiatus is Over

By Michael J. Katin, MD

The summer hiatus is now over and the time has arrived for the medical profession, including our specialty, to return to a normal level of activity. There has now been enough time for the residency graduates to have become acclimated to their new roles in academics or private practice (or, in some cases, Burger King) and, more importantly, for the senior staff members to have unloaded the most noxious of their duties onto these unsuspecting but still accommodating physicians. It is now also the season for repositioning regarding political and economic issues, as the best and brightest in our field turn on each other like caged rats. Some of this has already surfaced and when the more controversial issues come down to the wire it is hoped that at least we can get the confrontations booked as pay-per-view events on cable TV.

Somewhere in all this is the glacial progression of science and technology in our field. Ironically, in most specialty fields it is helpful for the patient to beware going for any treatment shortly after July 1, since he or she will be turned over to an incoming resident or staff person rather than someone with more experience. In radiation oncology, there instead would be the increased likelihood that the newly fledged radiation oncologist will make a determined effort to assess the patient comprehensively and do everything possible to come up with the correct target volume and other treatment parameters. Now that September has arrived, this determination should have already been considerably dampened by the onslaught of reality. In fact, there are no universally correct treatment parameters or we would all be using them automatically and in fact could be replaced by physicists and dosimetrists (or sooner, anyway).

In the meantime, September and October are the months in which we can reinforce the necessity of our existence as a specialty, through replaying multiple variations of socio-psychologico-politico-economic policies and procedures through ACR and ACRO, and fine-tuning scientific programs through ASTRO, whereas in fact, the one meeting that we should try to infiltrate and influence is not on anyone's schedule: the annual national conference of the AARP.

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com