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Shining a spotlight on medical physics

Wow, time flies! This is my final post. I have tried over the past few weeks to provide some insight into what it means to be a medical physicist--the unique value we bring to the health care system, and to show you an example of the type of work we do to improve cancer care. I have highlighted the value of investing in our future: bright young graduate students and residents. In this light, I want to share with you that we are very excited here in Kelowna, as we have just had our new BC Cancer Agency/UBC Okanagan medical physics graduate program approved. It has been a tremendous amount of...

Planting seeds for future researchers

Last week I introduced some exciting, innovative work we are doing at the BC Cancer Agency – Southern Interior on permanent breast seed implant treatments for breast cancer. Today, I’d like to talk a bit about the vital importance of young physics trainees in pushing forward new treatments. Engaging bright, young physics trainees is, for me, one of the true joys of my work. I do this through my involvement in the Medical Physics Graduate Programs at the University of Victoria and now at UBC - Okanagan, and in my role at the BC Cancer Agency as Director of our provincial Medical Physics...

Contributing to Innovation in Health Care – Part 2

Yesterday, I shared how an innovative treatment for breast cancer is being offered in Kelowna, which has the promise to be implemented more widely and benefit more women. Since the beginning of our Permanent Breast Seed Implants program, we have had exactly this goal in mind: to innovate and evolve the technique to enable widespread clinical implementation. We aim specifically to improve and standardize the technique, so that other centres can adopt the procedure. I’m proud to say that we have already made significant progress. Some of the improvements we have developed include: A...

Contributing to Innovation in Health Care – Part 1

Hello again. The timing of this post has landed in the midst of a very exciting week for me, as I am currently attending a Medical Physics Leadership Academy, near Washington DC. Medical physicists from across the U.S. and Canada have gathered here to learn about effective leadership and discuss what it means to be a leader in medical physics. It has been an extremely interesting and informative meeting. One way medical physicists are leaders is in health care innovation. With advanced graduate degrees, we are trained critical thinkers who naturally ask tough questions and who are skilled at...

Hooked on Medical Physics

I am very happy to have been invited to be the guest blogger this month. I hope you will enjoy our short journey together and learn a bit about medical physics, as it relates to innovation in cancer care. I was born and raised in Deep River, a small town in Ontario, where, yes, the Ottawa River is at its very deepest—123 metres (400 ft.). Deep River was an interesting place to grow up. The town was built in the 1950s as the residential site for employees of Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, a world class research facility. When I was growing up, this town in the...

Introducing June Guest Blogger: Dr. Michelle Hilts

Thank you to our May guest blogger, Dr. David Scott, who shared some interesting insight into work that he and his team are doing to better understand and treat lymphoma. This month we’re excited to welcome Dr. Michelle Hilts, a medical physicist at the BC Cancer Agency’s Centre for the Southern Interior. Dr. Hilts has been with the Cancer Agency for 17 years, and before settling in the Okanagan worked at the Vancouver and Vancouver Island Cancer Centres. She finds the combination of clinical duties, research and teaching very fulfilling, and feels especially lucky to be able to mentor young...

Leaning on Darwin’s thinking

In previous posts I wrote about matching treatment to the patient’s tumour. Currently, we choose treatments primarily based on what the lymphoma looks like down the microscope. At this time, we treat all patients who have diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the most common form of lymphoma, with one chemotherapy recipe called R-CHOP. This works quite well, curing about 60 percent of patients. But if the treatment fails the disease becomes very difficult to overcome. To improve outcomes and make a difference for patients, research needs to be translated into targeted therapies and tests to choose...

How donors are accelerating scientific discovery

The other day I spent time with some BC Cancer Foundation donors, talking about lymphoma research and taking them on a tour of the lab. Later, I reflected on the role that philanthropy plays in supporting cancer research in general and my research specifically. During our discussion, I was asked a number of great questions, and all had the same theme—recent innovations in technology or treatments. Increasingly, these are the things we focus on also—using cutting-edge technology to work out why lymphomas develop, why some lymphomas respond to treatment while others don’t and how best to use...

From Lab to Bedside

Hello again. In my last post, I told you a little about my background and how I came to be at the BC Cancer Agency. The journey from graduating medical school to becoming a Clinician-Scientist involved over a decade of training, gaining the skills and experience to both care for patients and perform research. The role I now have at the BC Cancer Agency, in the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer and the Department of Lymphoid Cancer Research, makes use of all of this training and really is my dream job. Caring for patients with lymphoma is both challenging and enormously rewarding. Sharing the journey...

Personal Experience Motivates this Doctor

As a Clinician-Scientist at the BC Cancer Agency, I spend part of my time looking after patients with lymphoma and part of my time doing lymphoma research. I grew up in a small rural community south of Auckland, New Zealand – the youngest of six children. From a young age, I was exposed to the challenges of medicine, as my father was a doctor, mainly looking after people with diabetes, and my mother was a pharmacist. As a teenager, observing the sacrifices my father made to be a great doctor, particularly time spent away from our family, I decided that I would rather be a scientist. An...

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