American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Annual Assembly March 2019
Society for Palliative Radiation Oncology
Annual Meeting October 2018
Annual Meeting 2015
Society for Palliative Radiation Oncology
Palliative Radiation Oncology
Icahn School of Medicine
Radiation therapy is well known to provide palliation for a variety of localized cancer symptoms, which can improve patient quality of life and reduce caregiver burden and stressors. Palliative radiation therapy plays critical roles in the management of pain from bone metastases, neurological symptoms from brain metastases or spinal cord compression, and local symptoms caused by tumor compression, mass effect, or local invasion. The importance of palliative radiotherapy to end-of-life oncology care has led to International Consensus Conferences on Palliative Radiotherapy in New York in 1990, London in 2000, San Diego in 2010, and most recently Barcelona in 2015. The success and momentum of these meetings, as well as the increasing collaboration between colleagues worldwide dedicated specifically to the subspecialty of palliative radiotherapy led to the formation of the Society of Palliative Radiation Oncology (SPRO) in 2014.
SPRO is a professional society that functions as the local, national, and international levels to promote excellence in palliative radiation oncology care. This includes the provision of evidence-based palliative radiotherapy that is effective, efficient, safe, and affordable, as well as the provision of high-quality primary palliative care from the time of an advanced cancer diagnosis. We strive to advance palliative radiation oncology care through research, education, collaboration, and patient advocacy.
I grew up with four sisters in a small city in Florida called Ocala. With my dad as a chiropractor and my mom as a pharmacist, I became interested in health care at a young age. I also loved math and physics, so I decided to study biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. I ultimately decided to go into medicine because I saw how special and privileged the patient-doctor relationship was.
Why did you go into radiation oncology?
As a senior biomedical engineering student, I took a design course in which I was randomly grouped with a radiation oncologist and a head and neck surgeon. We worked on a project using intraoperative point tracking and deformable image registration to better delineate post-operative tongue resection margins, with a goal of minimizing the volume of high dose radiation targets. I instantly loved radiation oncology from an engineering perspective. When I started medical school at Vanderbilt University, I began shadowing in the radiation oncology department, and I also loved the clinical aspects of the specialty. I was drawn to how radiation oncology exists at the intersection of advanced technology and human experience.
Why were you interested in joining SPRO?
I became interested in palliative care as a medical student when I learned the importance of focusing not only on quantity of life but also quality of life. I had the opportunity to observe the implementation of an inpatient palliative radiation oncology service, and I saw the added value of having a dedicated radiation oncologist who can spend time discussing goals of care and prognosis with patients. I was interested in joining SPRO to continue learning how to best serve patients with incurable cancers.
Feel free to share on any projects that you have been working on that may be of interest to our members
Recently, I collaborated with the Department of Radiology to create a diagnostic CT protocol that can be ordered after-hours, when CT simulation is unavailable, and utilized to plan urgent radiation treatments. Currently, I am developing a surveillance protocol for patients after completing palliative radiation for painful bone metastases, with aims to catch new or recurrent sites of bone pain and prevent missed opportunities for additional palliative treatments.
“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”