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36 Robert WoodJohnson
Bruce Haffty, MD, MS
he dual chair role for Bruce Haffty, MD, MS, professor
and chair, Departments of Radiation Oncology, Robert
Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey Medical
School, and chief of staff, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New
Jersey (below), was created strictly because of need. "One of
the priorities at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School was
to develop a residency program for radiation oncology," Dr.
Haffty says. When he arrived in 2005, there was very little
research, minimal education, and no training in that disci-
pline. "To start a residency program, you have to make sure
all residents have all training they need in appropriate sites--
for example, GYN, breast, head and neck, and brain," he
adds. Where Robert Wood Johnson Medical School was
lacking--in head and neck cancer--New Jersey Medical
School was strong. So it made sense to develop a way for res-
idents to go there for traning. That was the reason a relation-
ship started between the two campuses.
Shortly after that, the two radiation oncologists at New
Jersey Medical School expressed an interest in merging the
departments. With just two physicians at the Newark campus,
and with Robert Wood Johnson Medical School increasing its
presence in radiation oncology, they suggested creating one
big department that encompassed both schools. Dr. Haffty
approached Peter S. Amenta, MD, PhD, then dean of Robert
Wood Johnson Medical School, who supported the idea, and
in 2009, the joint department was formed--with Dr. Haffty as
its chair.
The interspersion of staff and students happened organically.
Now medical students from either school can go to both facili-
ties to experience the unique case mix at each. The Newark cam-
pus tends to have more advanced-stage cancers and patients
with socioeconomic issues compared to the New Brunswick
campus. At both facilities, students learning physics get hands-
on experience with a broad spectrum of equipment. And in
research, as Dr. Dhib-Jalbut mentions, clinical trials can be more
robust because of the patient population both facilities serve.
"There are pros and cons, particularly when it comes to effi-
ciency," says Dr. Haffty. When recruiting physicians, Dr.
Haffty prefers them to practice in both locations. But living
where it's convenient can be a challenge. He's been successful
growing staff at both medical schools as well as at the Rutgers
Cancer Institute of New Jersey. When Dr. Haffty became chair,
there were five physicians, two physicists, and no basic science
faculty. Currently there are 14 clinical faculty, 12 physicists
who are faculty, and five basic science faculty.
Overall, Dr. Haffty believes that the dual role he plays--and
the merging of the two departments--was a smart move. "This
was very doable for us since the department is relatively small.
We're much better being one big department in two places," he
says. "It really, really works for us."
Is the Dual Chair Strategy a Trend?
he dual chairs agree that sharing resources, faculty, and
students not only creates efficiencies, it also broadens
the educational and clinical experience. This isn't always
feasible. Not every medical school has another within a rea-
sonable geographic distance to have this type of collabora-
tive relationship.
One thing is clear: teaching, working, or learning in an
environment with so much patient diversity and clinical
exposure can be enlightening for everyone involved.