My shining moment came as I oversaw a cardiac stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) treatment in our Radiation Oncology unit in early December. The novel treatment uses radiation to noninvasively treat an abnormality that causes the heart to beat too rapidly. Although we have performed several of these cases in our department, this one was special.

We have a system called AVATAR that allows patients to watch videos while receiving radiation therapy. The treatment takes one hour, so the distraction of watching a video can help some patients lie still and avoid the need for anesthesia. That day, we were caring for a patient with cardiac SBRT who was feeling especially anxious, and we were able to use the AVATAR system to play Paul Blart: Mall Cop to keep the patient calm.

The attention to detail of our team — including simulation, planning, treatment, clinical monitoring and ensuring that our patient and his parents felt comfortable and supported — was remarkable. The case had added meaning because it was the last case planned by one of our medical physicist colleagues, Dr. Fred Hacker, who passed away days before the patient’s treatment. I was full of appreciation and admiration for our entire team for their professionalism and skill in delivering Fred’s last plan perfectly for this patient, despite shouldering the grief of losing a team member.

Ray Mak, MD
Department of Radiation Oncology