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Q&A with ASTRO president, Dr. Theodore DeWeese

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | September 06, 2019
Rad Oncology
Dr. Theodore DeWeese
From the September 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The 2019 American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Annual Meeting takes place this year from September 15th through the 18th at McCormick Place West in Chicago. HealthCare Business News spoke with ASTRO president, Dr. Theodore DeWeese, vice dean for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Sidney Kimmel Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, to learn about his background and to get an update on the organization.

HCB News: What inspired you to get involved in healthcare?
Dr. Theodore DeWeese: When I was in college, I came to realize just how much I loved science in the broadest sense, meaning chemistry and biology and physics. I was very lucky to have an opportunity to work in a laboratory in the School of Medicine in Colorado. I didn’t know at the time, but I was doing what we would now term “translational research”. We were developing an assay for a particular rare disease and came up with a way to do that, and then had an FDA-approved product. As my first research project, and since I had no framework, I just thought it was the coolest thing ever and I had no idea what a rare opportunity that was for me.

I also have always loved people and volunteering and did that in various ways in college and with a variety of organizations in Denver. The linkage of those two things, and really the second in particular, that’s where my heart was — around the notion of helping those who need it, and I have this great interest and love of science and biomedicine — what better place to do that than in medicine? No one in my family had ever been to college, much less medical school, so I rolled the dice and actually was admitted into medical school. All these years later, I have loved every moment.

HCB News: What is on your agenda as president of ASTRO?
TD: Broadly, there are two categories. First, we want to engage all of our members and support them in their role in caring for patients with cancer. It means having to fully educate the public and other physicians about the unique role that radiation oncology plays within the oncology care team – particularly, that we are one of the most effective modalities to cure patients.

There are very high demands for quality and safety that come with the work we do. That’s very important for the broader audience to understand our role as oncologists, and is really key in all of this, so we want to propagate a very clear and positive message about those aspects of who we are.

The second is the continuous learning required of those of us in cancer, generally, and radiation oncology, specifically, because it’s a fast-moving field. We need to make sure our members feel they are as contemporary in their knowledge as possible in areas like biomarker development, cancer genetics and immunotherapy linkages with radiation.

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