Brian Zegers standing in a hallway.

At Suffolk

  • Certificate in Medical Dosimetry

Since Suffolk

  • Certified Medical Dosimetrist, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston

Why did you choose to study Medical Dosimetry?

I honestly just stumbled across dosimetry at the suggestion of a family friend. I was originally interested in veterinary medicine, but realized it wasn’t for me after I took a year off after undergrad to work in an animal hospital. I had no idea what dosimetry was at the time, but after shadowing I realized it fit my biology/mathematics background and my interest in medicine so I went for it. The fact that the field is constantly changing with advances in technology and cancer care was particularly enticing to me.

How did your Suffolk experience prepare you for your career after graduation?

At the beginning of the program, we were told that it would be a “2-year job interview” and it truly ended up being just that since I ended up with a job offer at one of the hospitals I had a clinical rotation at. The most valuable part of the program was the hands-on experience we gained from all the hours we logged in clinic working on treatment plans for real patients under the supervision of our clinical preceptors. Our classes at Suffolk supplemented the clinical experience well considering many were taught by professionals in the field who worked in Boston-area hospitals.

What does a typical day in your job look like?

I am typically assigned to work on treatment plans for an average of 4-5 patients a week. For each patient, a radiation oncologist will provide the dose they want the tumor or a region of the body (i.e. the breast and nodal regions for advanced breast cancer) to receive and a list of dose constraints for organs adjacent to the treatment area. The whole objective is to maximize the volume of the target area receiving the dose prescribed by the physician while minimizing dose to normal tissue.

Using treatment planning software, I choose the angles at which the linear accelerator will deliver radiation as it rotates around the patient and how much will be delivered at each location. With “simpler” treatment techniques, I manually design the apertures that high-energy x-rays or electrons come out of to conform the field of radiation around the tumor. With more complex treatment techniques, the software designs these apertures for me based on parameters I input into the system. Each plan can take anywhere from a half hour to a full work week to complete.

The next step is to review the treatment plan with the attending physician. He/she might ask to make changes (i.e. avoid dose to an area that was previously treated). Once the final plan has been approved, it goes through a series of quality assurance tests by the physics and radiation therapy teams to make sure no errors were made in the generation of the treatment plan or its documentation so that everything is ready for a patient’s first day of treatment. 

All in all, most of my day is spent behind a computer. I rarely interact with patients, but I constantly interact with the entire medical team involved in their care. Clinical duties take up most of my time, but working at a teaching hospital has also provided me with research and education opportunities.