Deep inside Massachusetts General Hospital, at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, a staff that includes dozens of Suffolk alumni are carefully harnessing the awesome power of radiation to treat cancer. Among them are senior radiation therapist Ryan Connolly BS ’07, CRT ’09, team lead therapist Meghan Kearney BS ’05, MS ’09, and Christine Cerrato BS ’98, technical director for radiation oncology at Mass General.

Connolly, whose initial impression of radiation was based on its devastating destructive power at Hiroshima, grew interested in harnessing that force for health after seeing a poster for Suffolk’s radiation therapy program his sophomore year. “These are incredibly complex machines that are being used to help somebody,” Connolly explains. “Seeing radiation controlled in such a manner that you could actually do good with it was mind-blowing to me.”

Connolly didn’t have to go far after graduating from Suffolk’s clinical radiation therapy program in 2009. Like many of his classmates, he barely had time to graduate before he was snapped up by Mass General, which boasts one of the best—and most in-demand—radiation oncology departments in the world. While Suffolk’s radiation therapy program began only two decades ago, today its graduates dominate Mass General’s radiation department, and 30 of the hospital’s 76 therapists are Suffolk alumni.

Their job can be psychologically exhausting—they can’t save everyone—and it takes a certain generosity of spirit to treat patients who may be suffering from pain, anxiety, or nausea day in and day out.

“I had dreaded it,” says Jim Gaffey, who was treated for prostate cancer in 2009 by a Mass General team that included several Suffolk graduates. But his team’s skill and good humor put him at ease. Now in good health, Gaffey has kept in touch with his therapists over the years, regularly driving into Boston to deliver homemade chocolate chip cookies. “Here are these people who saved my life!” he says. “How can you really thank them enough?”

[Adapted from:]