Radiation—something to celebrate


In this November of thankfulness, radiation may not top most people’s lists—but it should.

This week, we give radiation its due by celebrating National Radiologic Technology Week. Without the scientific discovery and a host of expert healthcare providers trained to diagnose treat patients with radiation, there would be less ability to diagnose everything from broken bones to Alzheimer’s disease—and fewer survivors of cancer.

This week kicked off with Medical Physics Day on Tuesday, Nov. 7, and birthday of the noted physicist Marie Curie who discovered polonioum and radium and launched the development of research and application around radioactive isotopes that would later become ground-breaking medical science.

It was Marie Curie who said: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Wednesday, Nov. 8, marked International Radiology Day and the 122nd anniversary of discovery of the X-ray. Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen isn’t exactly a household name, but his work continues to impact our lives, from security scans at airports to trips with young sports players to the emergency room.

Both Marie Curie and Wilhelm Roentgen received Nobel Prizes for their work.

The potency of the proton was theorized as early as 1904 in W.H. Bragg’s paper on the energy loss behavior of charged particles, but it took invention of the cyclotron by Ernest Lawrence in 1931 for heavier atomic particles to become viable as an option for medical treatment.

Following World War II and development of the atomic bomb, the use of atomic particles in healthcare continued to advance, and proton therapy was first used for treatment in 1954 at Berkeley based on the principles Wilson outlined in his 1946 paper. Harvard treated its first proton patient in 1961. In 1988, the Food and Drug Administration approved proton therapy as a treatment modality, and just two years later the first hospital-based system opened at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

For decades, cadres of physicists, radiologists, medical dosimetrists, radiologic technicians and radiation therapists have been providing quality medical care enabled by radiation technology.

At Provision CARES Center for Proton Therapy, Provision Radiation Therapy and Provision Diagnostic Imaging Center, we employ state of the art diagnostic and therapeutic technologies to provide patients the best of care.

For example, medical physicist Sammie Hedrick not only works with dosimetrists and Provision CARES Proton Therapy Center to create treatment plans—particularly in the most difficult cancer cases—she has also taken on larger challenges. Hedrick is working on a “scripting” process that automates basic set-up functions for patient treatment, helping eliminate the chance for human error. And another initiative in development is the use of patient data in cases in which treatment approach is very similar, such as prostate cancer, to create “knowledge-based planning … to make sure you’re always reaching your standard of care,” she says.

Hedrick along with medical dosimetrist Kevin Kirby have won high marks in international dosimetry planning competitions. Hedrick received third place out of 124 entries in 2013 and Kirby ranked 21st among 238 treatment plans in this year’s contest.

Last year, Judson Gash, radiologist at Provision Diagnostic Imaging Center, was named “Top Doc” in Knoxville’s CityView Magazine in 2016. That same year, he also received an Editor’s Recognition award from the journal RadioGraphics.

And that’s just a sample of a few of the reasons to celebrate radiation technology. And be thankful.