What Does It Mean to Be a Resident?

Chief Radiation Oncology Residents, Drs. Ronica Nanda and Trevor Lim, answer our questions about residency and offer advice to the incoming class.

What is a resident?

Lim: A resident is a doctor who is training to specialize in a specific field in medicine, such as radiation oncology, for example. Residency is like an apprenticeship program for doctors. The radiation oncology residency program is five years beginning with an internship year in internal medicine.
What is your role as chief residents?

Nanda: We have extra administrative responsibilities such as putting together the various resident schedules and visiting professor lecture program. We also help address any questions or concerns the residents have during the year and help serve as a liaison between the residents and faculty.

What is something people don’t know about residents?

Lim: Most people don’t realize that residents have their medical degrees, MDs. A lot of people think we are in training to become doctors while we are already doctors.

What is your role in patient treatment?

Lim: Since Emory is a teaching hospital, we are fortunate, as residents, to work side-by-side with the attending physicians (faculty doctors) to care for and treat patients. We have a rotation schedule that enables us to spend 2-3 months with radiation oncologists specializing in different areas such as pediatrics, brain, lung, breast or prostate, for example. During this time, we learn about the presentation, disease course and treatment options for various cancers. We are responsible for consulting with patients before the attending doctor, which consists of reviewing patient records and history, checking vitals and performing physical examinations. We also prepare patient follow-up plans.

What does a typical work week look like for a resident?

Nanda: In a typical week, we’ll be on a rotation schedule with 2-3 doctors and are responsible for seeing these doctors’ patients, alongside the doctors and before they enter the room. We attend a weekly tumor board where doctors present difficult patient cases for review in front of a panel of peer experts. Each week, a resident is also chosen to present on their research or on various clinical topics. A resident may also be on call which means they are responsible for responding to any emergency calls coming into the department from the emergency department or from patients themselves. After the residents take these calls, they brief the doctor on call and discuss the best management of the emergency and determine if the doctor needs to come in to treat the patient.

What advice would you give new residents?

Nanda: The first part of residency is all about learning how to treat different cancers. The second part involves understanding why. You have to remember this is a process…five years of learning how and why so that, at the end, you are able to stand on your own feet.

Lim: Yes, I think in the beginning, it is important to listen and absorb and ask questions. Your first job is to learn the workflow in the department so you understand how things get done.

Why did you choose radiation oncology?

Nanda: Many people ask us, “Why did you choose this field?” For me, I like having an active role in cancer care and treatment. I like seeing the difference radiation therapy makes and knowing that this treatment is helping our patients.

Lim: Many cancers are very treatable. But even with the ones that are not, there is a misconception that all you do is sit around and wait. This is far from the truth. A big part of our job as radiation oncologists is to make whatever time a patient has meaningful for them, whether this means enabling them to travel around the world or be with their family.

Nanda: There have been so many advancements lately. Cancer treatment is very hopeful.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Nanda: I’m a Florida Gator fan!

Lim: I’m a UCLA Bruins fan! And, Ronica and I found out yesterday that we both passed our board exam, the first of three we’ll have to take to be certified in radiation oncology.

About Drs. Lim and Nanda

Drs. Ronica Nanda and Trevor Lim are chief residents in their fifth and final year of residency in the Department of Radiation Oncology. They are also the 2015 Pippas Residents.*

Dr. Nanda earned her MD from the University of Florida College of Medicine and completed an internship in Internal Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Her husband is also a doctor and completing a fellowship in Birmingham, Alabama.

Dr. Lim earned his MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed an internship and residency in Internal Medicine at David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in California and a fellowship in Medical Oncology and Hematology at UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Lim also serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. He has a wife and four children.

Learn More About Residency

*The Daniel P. Amos Family Foundation funded the gift in honor of Andrew W. Pippas, MD, medical director of the John B. Amos Cancer Center in Columbus, Georgia. The gift supports the radiation oncology residency program and, each year, two residents will be honored as Pippas Residents.