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Contributing to Innovation in Health Care – Part 1

June 14, 2016

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 scientific process, investigating, inventing and optimizing. The way I like to sum this up is to think of medical physicists as the “scientists in the room” within hospital environments. And this is a vital role. We might be behind the scenes, but our work is pushing the frontier of health care from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up. 

So, today I’d like to provide you with a window into what such innovation can look like by describing work by the Brachytherapy Innovation Team, at the BC Cancer Agency in Kelowna, who was working on a novel treatment option for early stage breast cancer called Permanent Breast Seed Implants. This involves implanting small radioactive seeds (think metallic chocolate sprinkles!) into the breast and thus treating it from the inside out, a type of treatment called brachytherapy.

One clear advantage of this type of treatment over the standard approach—up to five weeks of daily radiation treatments using beams—is that the implant is completed in a single one to two hour session. Imagine the benefit to women if this treatment was widely available?

In 2012, we became only the second site in the world to offer this treatment to breast cancer patients. We are very happy to be able to offer this groundbreaking technique in B.C. and have now successfully treated 37 patients.

Wouldn’t it be great if this revolutionary treatment could be offered more widely in our province, across Canada and the world?

Tomorrow I will share how we are helping to make this a reality.