How do I Become a Pediatric Hematologist?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
A pediatric hematologist analyzing a sample.
A pediatric hematologist analyzing a sample.

The person who would like to become a pediatric hematologist will spend years in study at medical study before completing back-to-back residencies in pediatrics and hematology/oncology. Properly named, the doctor following this path will become a pediatric hematologist oncologist, though sometimes people will just use hematology or oncology to describe this specialist. These doctors are trained pediatricians who expressed interest in working with pediatric patients with blood diseases and also with cancer.

Formal education to become a pediatric hematologist oncologist begins with entry to a four-year study program ending in a bachelor’s degree. This is not always the case. The UK combines bachelor’s work with medical school, and such a program takes about six years to complete. Many other countries have a model where the bachelor’s degree is earned first and must be possessed to enter medical school.

Majors in undergraduate studies could include biology, chemistry or some variant, or many students simply major in pre-med. Essential in any major is preparation to take the medical college admission test (MCAT). The scores from this test are often used with grades to determine eligibility for medical school.

Medical school in a non-UK model is usually a combination of three years study and a final year of internship. In this final year students would apply to residency matching programs to continue their studies. In this case, students should look for a pediatric residency first. This additional study helps doctors gain experience treating the specific needs of children.

After three years of a pediatric residency, a doctor can become a pediatric hematologist oncologist by applying for fellowships or residencies with pediatric hematology oncology programs. These are often relatively small and competitive, so excellent performance in a pediatric residency and strong recommendations will be of use. Like the pediatrics residency, the hematology oncology residency takes three years and often combines clinical practice with advanced research methods. Doctors will then need to take examinations or get certification from the appropriate medical boards.

Pediatric hematology oncology is not an easy specialty given the population it treats. Many doctors in this field are passionate about helping children and have worked on discoveries that improved or help provide cure for blood illnesses or cancers. Yet it can be challenging to care for children with terminal cancers, and this is a frequent reality.

While working in this field typically means helping children recover from serious illnesses, it also means that doctors will lose patients, and this can seem more tragic because these patients are children. Those who want to become a pediatric hematologist oncologist need to bear in mind the emotional weight of the job they undertake. In addition to being well-trained in the medicine practiced, possessing emotional stability, a strong support network, and compassion can be of great use in carrying out this work.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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    • A pediatric hematologist analyzing a sample.
      A pediatric hematologist analyzing a sample.