What does ASTRO have in store for the radiation oncology community at its upcoming meeting?

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | September 11, 2023
Rad Oncology
Jeff Michalski
The biggest event of the year for radiation oncology is the annual ASTRO meeting, which will take place in San Diego from October 1-4. In preparation for the event, and to find out what attendees should expect, HCB News sat down with ASTRO president, Dr. Jeff Michalski, for a wide ranging discussion about his background and the ways in which cancer treatment is evolving.

HCB News: Who or what inspired you to follow a career in healthcare?
Jeff Michalski: I had inspiring science teachers in high school and college who encouraged me to pursue a career in medicine. As an undergraduate, I enjoyed organic chemistry and biochemistry. I knew I wanted to pursue a career with a foundation based in science, with an aim towards helping people.

HCB News: Why did you choose oncology?
JM: Like many physicians, I have personal experience with family members confronting a diagnosis of cancer. Two of my grandparents passed away because of metastatic pancreatic cancer and metastatic melanoma when I was a teenager. I knew that if I became a physician, I wanted to pursue a career that would help lessen the burden on families who would face this disease.

As an undergraduate, I was intrigued by the mechanisms of action and the rapid development of cancer drugs. I wanted to choose an oncologic specialty that targeted a cancer’s biological or anatomic weaknesses, while leaving healthy organs alone.

Once I was in medical school, I was committed to a career in cancer care and had the opportunity to do a summer externship in radiation oncology, which I explored thinking it would give me a unique perspective on multidisciplinary management of cancer patients. Once I finished that rotation, though, I was convinced that radiation oncology was the career path I wished to pursue.

HCB News: Can you talk about how your career path led you to where you are today?
JM: I was fortunate that my medical school, the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), had an exceptional collection of leaders in our specialty while I was a student. Four former ASTRO presidents and Gold Medalists – Drs. James Cox, Frank Wilson, Larry Kun and Colleen Lawton – came from MCW, and I had the pleasure of working with each of them.

The chair of the department during my time, Dr. Cox, was an aspirational role model. When he moved to New York to become the chair of the department of radiation oncology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, I took the leap and left Milwaukee for New York City and began my training under his tutelage. After he was recruited to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, I elected to transfer my training to the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis. There, I met additional mentors including Drs. Carlos Perez, Bahman Emami and James Purdy. Each one of these mentors were recognized for their exceptional contributions to clinical research. They inspired me to pursue a clinical research career in the national cooperative groups, specifically the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group/NRG Oncology and the Pediatric Oncology Group (POG). In those groups, I had the good fortune to participate and eventually lead clinical trials in adult and pediatric brain tumors and genitourinary cancers.

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