Open Access Research article

Evaluating the impact of an integrated multidisciplinary head & neck competency-based anatomy & radiology teaching approach in radiation oncology: a prospective cohort study

Leah D’Souza1*, Jasbir Jaswal2, Francis Chan1, Marjorie Johnson1, Keng Yeow Tay3, Kevin Fung4 and David Palma5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, London, ON, Canada

2 Division of Radiation Oncology, Department of Oncology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, London, ON, Canada

3 Department of Medical Imaging, London Health Sciences Centre, Victoria Hospital, London, ON, Canada

4 Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, London Health Sciences Centre - Victoria Hospital, London, ON, Canada

5 London Regional Cancer Program, London, ON, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:124  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-124

Published: 26 June 2014



Modern radiation oncology demands a thorough understanding of gross and cross-sectional anatomy for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Complex anatomic sites present challenges for learners and are not well-addressed in traditional postgraduate curricula. A multidisciplinary team (MDT) based head-and-neck gross and radiologic anatomy program for radiation oncology trainees was developed, piloted, and empirically assessed for efficacy and learning outcomes.


Four site-specific MDT head-and-neck seminars were implemented, each involving a MDT delivering didactic and case-based instruction, supplemented by cadaveric presentations. There was no dedicated contouring instruction. Pre- and post-testing were performed to assess knowledge, and ability to apply knowledge to the clinical setting as defined by accuracy of contouring. Paired analyses of knowledge pretests and posttests were performed by Wilcoxon matched-pair signed-rank test.


Fifteen post-graduate trainees participated. A statistically significant (p < 0.001) mean absolute improvement of 4.6 points (17.03%) was observed between knowledge pretest and posttest scores. Contouring accuracy was analyzed quantitatively by comparing spatial overlap of participants’ pretest and posttest contours with a gold standard through the dice similarity coefficient. A statistically significant improvement in contouring accuracy was observed for 3 out of 20 anatomical structures. Qualitative and quantitative feedback revealed that participants were more confident at contouring and were enthusiastic towards the seminars.


MDT seminars were associated with improved knowledge scores and resident satisfaction; however, increased gross and cross-sectional anatomic knowledge did not translate into improvements in contouring accuracy. Further research should evaluate the impact of hands-on contouring sessions in addition to dedicated instructional sessions to develop competencies.

Anatomy; Education; Radiotherapy; Contouring; Head and neck cancer