Improving Health Through Medical Physics


Radhe Mohan, PhD | Houston, TX

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 43 No. 5 — September | October 2018

Thank you, Thomas. And thank you for nominating me and for your glowing introduction. I do remember your visit in 1993 on your way back to Germany from MD Anderson. We worked together for just a couple of weeks to marry your IMRT algorithm with our 3D planning system. The results were just amazing and created a lot of buzz among my colleagues. This collaboration charted my research and development path for the next decade and a half. For that, I will forever be grateful.

Many thanks also to Clif Ling, Paul Keall, Dave Rogers, Saiful Huq, Jatinder Palta, and Harald Paganetti for their letters of support and to 20 others for their endorsements of the letters.

It is indeed a great honor to be the recipient of the 2018 Coolidge Gold Medal. It is truly humbling to be in the company of past Coolidge awardees who were the giants of our field. I would like to express my sincere thanks to AAPM and the Awards and Honors Committee.

I have been extremely fortunate in my life and career. I have had the privilege of working at the top two cancer centers– Memorial Sloan Kettering and MD Anderson. In between, I enjoyed five very productive years working with some of the very best at Virginia Commonwealth University.

I would like to pay tribute to my heroes, and those who influenced me. The late John Laughlin who gave me the opportunity to enter medical physics and who became a close friend and advocate; the late Michael Goitein, perhaps the most gifted medical physicist ever, a pioneer ahead of his time, from whom I learned the power of analytical thinking; and Clif Ling, from whom I learned the importance of biology for a medical physicist and how to lead and how to deal with bureaucrats and other thoughtless people.

I am a big fan of Irish music, and this Irish song you may have heard of says "You raise me up to more than I can be." This is very appropriate to my life; I have stood on the shoulders of outstanding and talented physicists, physicians, engineers and industry collaborators. There is a large number of individuals I owe this honor to; and not enough time to thank everyone, but I must mention a few.

My colleagues at MD Anderson Mary Martel, Mike Gillin, Ron Zhu, Narayan Sahoo, Lei Dong, Uwe Titt, Dragan Mirkovic, Amy Liu; and my physician colleagues: David Grosshans, Stephen Lin and Xing Liao, research program manager indispensable Mei-Hwa Ferguson and many others. It is also a matter of great pride for me to see many of my students, post-docs, and mentees being successful.

My former colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering (in addition to Clif Ling) Andy Jackson, Michael Lovelock, Gig Mageras, Larry Rothenberg, Margie Hunt, among others.

At Virginia Commonwealth University, Paul Keall, Jeff Siebers, and Qiuwen Wu. And my collaborators at MGH. I am thankful to all of them for contributions to my career.

Most importantly, to my family for their love, understanding, and support throughout. My wife Millie, the real secret of my success, who used her skills as an English teacher to be of enormous help in my work. Actually, that was the easy part. Fixing my idiosyncratic cultural differences was a bigger challenge. She succeeded only partially in that I still misbehave on occasion. For instance, I selected this photo with horns on our grandson's head. And to our daughter Denise, her husband Ed and their children Robert and Amanda; and our son David and his partner John for their forbearance of my busy work life.

Being a member of the AAPM for over the last 47 years has been wonderful for me personally. It has helped me grow professionally and scientifically. Based on my observations about the direction in which our field is heading, I would like to share a couple of thoughts.

Like in many fields, there is a growing trend toward automation in our profession. Much of what we do in the clinic will be automated, a lot of it is already happening. To ensure that our profession thrives for our sake and for the sake of the patients we care for, we as a society need to increase emphasis on creativity, on problem solving, and on research and development.

Secondly, over the past many decades, our field has gained enormously from the infusion of talent from such fields as pure physics, mathematics, computer science, biomedical and electrical engineering, etc. I make a plea that AAPM lower barriers to the entry of scientists from other disciplines. William Coolidge would have found it virtually impossible to become a medical physicist by today's rules. We need multidisciplinary input to make progress and raise the value of our contributions.

This is a quote by Charles Darwin. Let me end with this statement: In this diamond Jubilee year of the AAPM, I believe that we're on the verge of a major leap forward in cancer therapy through the combination of advances in our field and the advances in biology and immunology, for example through immunomodulatory properties of radiation, especially protons and heavier ions. I strongly believe that we, medical physicists, by combining our talents and skills with those of members of other disciplines can make a huge difference in enhancing cancer outcomes in years Beyond the Future.

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)