Resident Q&A

Scroll down to read some of our residents' answers to frequently asked program questions.


Bradley Ackerson, MD

Bradley Ackerson, MD

Resident, Class of 2023


What one word would you use to describe the Duke Radiation Oncology program?

Passionate! I can say from my time here that our Department has a deep passion for always doing the right thing for our patients. We are passionate about furthering the field of radiation oncology through scholarly pursuit. We are passionate about educating the next generation of oncologists. And we are passionate about working together to achieve these goals!


What attributes or skills would you use to describe an applicant that is a good “fit” for Duke?

One of the beautiful things about Duke is that the support and resources exist here to help anyone reach their potential. The Department has historically had a very diverse group of residents with unique skills and passions. This is clearly evident in the outstanding scholarly projects and accomplishments from current and former residents. That said, I think that environment would be wasted on someone that prefers to go through the motions or simply satisfy the minimum requirements from training. The best fit would be with someone who has a passion and that loves to hit the ground running and develop themselves as fully as possible!


How is resident research supported?

The key to research in residency is mentorship. Our faculty members are engaged in a wide range of clinical and basic science research projects including investigator-initiated trials and multi-institutional trials. They are leaders in the field and draw on both their experience and their connections as they mentor us and help us develop important skills. They are committed to our success and advocate for us during residency and in our transition to faculty. I have been impressed by their willingness to provide ideas, projects or opportunities while also supporting our own ideas and passions. They are quick to consider the unique skills of their colleagues in other disciplines throughout Duke. Duke is a large place with many strengths to leverage! Additionally, we are fortunate to have a spectacular in-house research support team. This includes Departmental staff dedicated to clinical trials, regulatory and statistical needs.



David Carpenter, MD, MHS

David Carpenter, MD, MHS

Resident, Class of 2023


Can you explain the different clinical sites, and the patient population and amount of time spent at each?

Duke Cancer Center: Eight of our nine core clinical rotations are completed within the Duke Cancer Center, which is continuous with Duke University Hospital. While at "Main Duke," residents are deeply integrated into the clinical workflow across the radiation oncology Department as well as a number of adjacent multidisciplinary clinics. While Duke hosts many cancer patients from across the Southeast and beyond, we also take enormous pride in serving our immediate community, which includes a significant proportion of Medicaid and uninsured patients. Incoming residents can expect to encounter a large number of rare and complex cases among the ~160 patients undergoing radiotherapy at Duke on any given day. 

Durham VA Hospital: Most Duke residents spend 9-12 months at the VA, which is directly across the street from Duke University Hospital. Here, residents run their own clinical services under the guidance of attending physicians. Many residents find this graduated autonomy to be one of their most informative clinical experiences. As the only VA radiation oncology center in North Carolina, we proudly care for veterans from across the Southeast.

Duke Cancer Center Wake County: During their scholarly PGY4 year, Duke residents have the option of rotating across Duke Raleigh Hospital, Duke Women’s Cancer Care Raleigh and Duke Cancer Center Cary Radiation Oncology, each located approximately 30 minutes from "Main Duke." Here, residents participate in high-level care in a community setting. Additionally, residents completing this rotation have the option of moonlighting on call for Wake County.


What sort of residency mentorship does the program offer?

Mentorship within the Duke radiation oncology department comes in many shapes and sizes. In our professional development coaching program, residents meet quarterly with an assigned faculty coach who is trained to help residents excel. These coaches are not directly involved in resident training, which enables open discussion of performance, failures and achievements in addition to general life advice. Beyond this, most residents benefit immensely from a number of mentors across a number of domains – all faculty are extremely approachable and excited to help residents succeed! Of course, the resident room is always a source of tips, pointers and curbside advice.     


What is morning conference like?

Morning conferences are a huge strength of our program. We have morning conferences from 8-9 a.m. every Monday-Friday, during which residents are exempted from clinical duties. Our conferences are currently 100% on Zoom – as a huge plus, everyone in our department is really, really good at using the mute button!

Annual curriculum across disease sites includes lectures from radiologists, medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, pathologists, physicists, palliative care and others often recognizable from NCCN guidelines and seminal publications. Site-specific conferences also include treatment planning sessions led by corresponding faculty, mock oral boards, cadaver labs, journal clubs and more formal didactic sessions. We store conference recordings and slides for later review.

Beyond disease site-based education, other sessions include a narrative oncology series, a Diversity, Inclusion and Equity seminar series, a personal finance session and a SUCCEED seminar series in which former residents and faculty discuss their job searches and career development. Each year, the residents select two radiation oncologists from outside Duke to give a lecture of their choice and meet with residents afterward. Importantly, residents provide ongoing input at every stage of the process – these mornings are dedicated to whatever content and format works best for you.



Rachel Shenker, MD

Rachel Shenker, MD

Resident, Class of 2024 


How do residents interact with each other? Are people friendly?

I am so fortunate to have found such a supportive, fun and hilarious group of people to work with every day. My coresidents have become really close friends of me and my partner, and I consider them to be lifelong friends and colleagues – which is awesome in such a small field! It is a very warm environment amongst the residents. 


How are PGY2s supported in the transition into residency?

There are a few days of orientation before starting on their first day of residency, as well as a number of introductory lectures. We have developed a "survival guide" that we go through the new PGY2s with and give detailed signouts. We also have the new residents shadow some of the clinic that they will start on the day or two prior so that they can get a feel of the workflow. 


Can you describe an example of a "typical" day as a resident?

I always start my day with some coffee! This is ready to go by ~7:45 a.m. and then I drive ~5 minutes to the hospital from my house. I get to the resident room around 8 a.m. to listen to lecture (although many of my coresidents choose to listen in remotely!). 8-9 a.m. is protected lecture or study time (or wellness activities with treats). At 9 a.m., clinic starts and will run until around 4:30 or 5 p.m. On office days (1-2 per week depending on the rotation), I will work on contouring, treatment planning with attendings, reading key papers or working on research projects. I typically leave around 5:30 p.m. and then spend the evening going on a run with my dog, grabbing a drink with a friend, seeing a show at Durham Performing Arts Center or watching a Hurricanes hockey game at the PNC arena in Raleigh!