Robert Olson

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

Clinical trials
stereotactic radiotherapy
patient reported outcomes
Head and Neck Cancer
Breast Cancer
Lung cancer
Community Health / Public Health
Social Determinants of Cancer
health services delivery

Relevant Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Research Methodology

clinical trials
patient reported outcomes


Master's students
Doctoral students

1) Clinical trials assessing stereotactic radiotherapy in the setting of metastatic disease 2) Population-level collection and use of patient reported outcomes to improve care and guide comparative effectiveness research 3) Assessing interventions to impact prescribing practices of oncologists

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.
I am interested in supervising students to conduct interdisciplinary research.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2021)
The influence of the prospective outcomes and support initiatives (POSI) on the radiation therapist's role in clinical practice (2019)

Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are defined as any report coming directly from the patient about a health condition and its treatment using a self-reported measure. The Prospective Outcomes and Support Initiative (POSI) is an initiative of BC Cancer that drives the provincial coordination of PRO data collection to create system improvements in clinical care processes. This study focuses on the influence of POSI on the role of the radiation therapist (RT) in clinical practice.Fifteen (15) RTs were recruited through POSI team leadership from 6 different BC Cancer sites. Semi-structured telephone interviews were the primary method of data collection, and interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data obtained were analyzed using the software NVIVO and guided by constant comparative methods.Three overarching themes described RT's perspectives on the ways in which POSI influenced their role as a healthcare provider. The first theme that emerged was that RT’s did not perceive POSI as influencing their radiation therapist role. The second theme described how POSI influenced the RT’s caring role through communication. Specifically, POSI enhanced the patient-provider relationship, provided a process through which to educate and advise patients, and the opportunity to address patient questions and/or priorities that they would not otherwise. The third theme portrayed ways in which POSI impeded the RTs ability to perform their usual work by creating extra workload. While the first theme suggests that POSI had minimal influence, the other two themes indicate that POSI influenced the RT-Patient interaction and hence, the overall patient experience during their cancer radiation treatments.POSI can both positively and negatively influence the RT's role in clinical practice. Nonetheless, maximizing the benefits of POSI so as to improve patient care will require concerted efforts to reduce the barriers to administration. Furthermore, creating opportunities for RTs to interact regularly with patients through POSI administration, has the potential to greatly improve the caring role of the RT in clinical practice.

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Population-based assessment of relationship between volume of practice and outcomes in head and neck cancer patients (2017)

Background and Purpose: Recent literature has suggested that higher volumes of practice areassociated with better survival outcomes for head and neck cancer (HNC) patients. However,these studies are limited by looking at the volume of practice on a cancer centre level (i.e. notprovider level), and include jurisdictions without central coordination and specialized HNCtumor group support. The objective of this thesis was to evaluate the effect of treatment centre onthe overall survival (OS) and cancer-specific survival (CSS) of HNC patients in BritishColumbia in a provincially coordinated program.Methods: The BC Cancer Registry (BCCR), a population-based provincial database, was used toidentify all patients in BC diagnosed for the first time with a primary non-thyroid HNC andtreated with radiotherapy between 2006 and 2011. Patients were categorized as residing in large,small and rural local health authorities (LHAs) using BC Stats and BC Ministry of Healthinformation. Physician case frequency was defined as low (0-14 cases per year), medium (15-29cases per year) and high (>30 cases per year). There was no effect on OS or head and neck CSSwhen physician case frequency was treated as a continuous variable.Results: 2,330 HNC patients were included in the study. On multivariable analysis, aftercontrolling for age, gender, cancer stage, anatomical site, treatment and physician casefrequency, neither head and neck CSS (HNCSS) (HR range=0.86-1.03; p=0.54-0.99) nor OS(HR range=0.91-1.05; p=0.60-0.88) was significantly different by centre. OS was also notsignificantly different for patients treated by physicians with low case frequency (HR=0.96;0.81-1.13; p=0.60) and medium case frequency (HR=1.12; 0.84-1.49; p=0.43) in reference tohigh case frequency. Conclusions: There was no significant difference in survival among BC cancer centres aftercontrolling for differences in rurality, physician case volume and other potential confoundingvariables. This lack of difference may be in large part due to the centrally coordinatedpopulation-run program where radiation oncologists subspecialize, follow provincial guidelines,attend multidisciplinary rounds, have access to radiotherapy quality assurance, and are supportedby a HNC tumor group.

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Membership Status

Partner appointment
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Northern Medical Program - Prince George

Program Affiliations



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