As one of the major modalities used in cancer management, radiation therapy is part of the treatment plan for more than half of all cancer patients.
Partnering with radiation oncologists to design these plans are medical dosimetrists. Dosimetry is the scientific determination of amount, rate and distribution of radiation.
Medical dosimetrists use the latest developments in computer technology, along with scientific knowledge and critical-thinking skills, to help ensure the safest, most appropriate treatment for each patient.
Many of today’s medical dosimetrists are graduates of the Medical Dosimetry baccalaureate program within MD Anderson’s School of Health Professions — one of only two such programs in Texas and 16 in the United States.
Through intensive classroom and clinical education, students pursuing a bachelor of science degree gain skills in radiation dose calculation, treatment design and quality assurance. The degree is achieved under the supervision of educated, experienced medical dosimetrists, physicists and radiation oncologists.
1. Mahsa Dehghanpour, Ed.D., program director and assistant professor, holds a tablet computer that highlights cross-sectional anatomy, which is an important aspect of medical dosimetry education.
2. Brittney Wilson (center), senior health professions educator, works with senior students Megan Waddell and David Cummings on an anthropomorphic phantom. The 110-pound phantom demonstrates the radiation scattering and absorption behavior of a human body, since materials used in its construction simulate various body tissues.
3. Jamie Baker, educational coordinator and instructor, helps senior student Tiffany Dang digitize a radiograph into the computer for brachytherapy planning.
4. Amita Tailor, clinical coordinator, shows devices used in clinics to measure radiation exposure. An ion chamber connected to an electrometer measures the charge collected inside the ion chamber following irradiation.
5. Senior students Sherin Varghese (left) and Gina Nieto take a break from their studies to review the latest issue of Medical Dosimetry, one of the professional journals available in the classroom.
6. A Vac-LokTM cushion (in blue) and thermoplastic mask help restrict patients’ movement during radiation treatment.
7. Following safety guidelines, this badge worn by medical dosimetry students monitors radiation dose to them while working in clinical areas. The badges are read, and reports of their cumulative dose are communicated to them every quarter.
8. Tandems and ovoids in different sizes and curvatures are used in the treatment of cervical cancer. They’re placed inside the patient and loaded with radioactive sources according to the treatment plan, delivering the prescribed dose of radiation to the target.
9. Numbered slices on the anthropomorphic phantom’s head, as well as on the entire body, allow the placement of tiny thermoluminescence dosimeters for use in dosimetry studies.