About the Medical Dosimetry Clinical Experience

Vasantee Reddicks ’21 (she/her/hers) completed clinical rotations at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Dana Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center at Milford Regional Medical Center (BWH Milford). Below, you will find her thoughts and experiences of working in a small clinical setting during the MS in Medical Dosimetry (MSMD) program.

Supervised clinical rotations are a core piece of the MSMD curriculum. All students in the program complete rotations in at least two clinical settings. Our affiliate clinical sites range from small community settings, including BWH Milford, to larger major academic centers. Vasantee’s experience below generally outlines an experience at a small community setting.

View the MSMD curriculum

What is a “typical” day for you when you are at your clinical site?

When I get to clinic, I log into my treatment planning system and work on a practice patient case. If it’s a new treatment site or technique that I’m learning for the first time, my preceptor will go over a few requirements or give a demonstration on how to create the plan. Then I am given a practice patient plan, and I try to get a treatment plan that meets all of the constraints for that plan.

Predominantly, I work on my own trying to figure out the appropriate radiation plan for the patient. Each plan is like its own puzzle, and I work with my preceptor when I have questions. My schedule is pretty consistent from day to day. We have observations that we are responsible for as well, so in those instances I may go into the treatment room to see certain procedures.

When you are at your clinical site, are you working with just your preceptor, or do you work with others in the department too?

I generally interact with everyone in the radiation oncology department including nurses, radiation therapists, physicists, and doctors. I predominantly interact with the lead dosimetrist who is also my preceptor.

My preceptor at BWH-Milford is awesome. He’s been in the field for a long time and very easy to talk to. He’s able to elaborate on theories and techniques, which is great, especially since all of these concepts are so new and different to me. He’s a really nice person and a good teacher.

"I’ve found mentorship, both with my professors and with the preceptor and dosimetrist at my clinical site. The clinical experience during the program has been particularly impactful. I’ve worked on so many patients of different demographics and you see that cancer does not discriminate. This experience reinforced all of the reasons why I decided to get into the field. I want to help people fight cancer and I want to help make a difference. I have learned a lot about myself during this program, and I believe I am a better person for it."
Vasantee Reddicks, MSMD ‘21

What technology do you use in the clinical setting?

I use the treatment planning system that the hospital uses to create radiation treatments. When I was at MGH I used something called Raystation and now at BWH-Milford, I’m using something called Eclipse. Raystation and Eclipse look different, but they are similar and have many of the same features for creating treatment plans. My courses prepared me for my clinical rotations. I reference old lectures from prior semesters all the time, especially when I am writing a case study for a competency or beginning a rotation at a new cancer site.

While we’re on the topic of technology, would you mind speaking a little more about your experience with proton radiation? And for those of us not in the profession, would you mind explaining the difference between proton radiation and photon radiation?

I had a great experience during my proton rotation at MGH. My preceptor was very knowledgeable and a nice person to work with. Proton radiation is different from photons in that the radiation falls off rapidly at a certain depth, which allows better sparing of normal tissues. MGH uses a different treatment planning system for protons and I was able to learn the software quickly and I completed my prostate competency. I was also able to observe proton radiation treatments in the clinic. It was fascinating to observe the differences between photon and proton radiation in terms of how the patient is set up for treatment, and the different apertures used to modify the proton beam. Having completed this rotation, I have a better understanding of how proton radiation works. I’m very fortunate to have this hands-on experience because there aren’t many hospitals in the country that offer proton therapy.

What do you think students considering the program should know about the clinical experience?

Students should be ready to work alongside others, they should not be afraid to ask questions, and they should be prepared to be challenged. You are in training for your future career, and you will meet different people and learn many new concepts. It is important to understand the theories behind the work. I encourage you to ask questions, so you are able to adequately explain yourself and the plans you create. Each case you work on will be unique because each patient is made differently. One case may be easy, and the next case may be the exact opposite.

Please share any final thoughts about your clinical experience and the MSMD program.

I think this is a great program. It has challenged me as a student and a person. In this program, I feel the bar is set high for you to work hard and to do your best. Each semester became slightly more intense, but manageable. It keeps you busy, and you are constantly learning.

I accepted a job offer at the main campus of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. After graduation, I will officially be a board-eligible Dosimetrist. I anticipate taking the certification exam this upcoming September. After certification I will be a MS, CMD- Master’s of Science Certified Medical Dosimetrist.