Get To Know Our Technical Imaging Supervisor: Derek Smith
February 10, 2023
Derek Smith serves as the technical imaging supervisor at Texas Center for Proton Therapy. Derek shares how his love for the health sciences led him to working in proton therapy and how he was in not one, but two movies alongside his family growing up.
Did you always know you wanted to pursue nuclear medicine, specifically in proton therapy?
What sparked my interest in nuclear medicine was my love for the health sciences. I wanted to grow in my career and learn more about a science I did not know much about at the time – which eventually landed me here at Texas Center for Proton Therapy. Nuclear medicine felt like a natural fit since I already had a degree in chemistry and biology prior to pursuing this field. Around the same time, proton therapy began to evolve, and it inspired me to become a part of a leading-edge form of treatment. I am glad to be a part of an incredible team that works together to make a huge impact in providing targeted therapies for patients who may only have limited treatment options. Proton therapy is about hope and providing patients with a better quality of life.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your career to-date?
The greatest lesson I have learned is to be honest with yourself, ask questions, and keep growing. You will never know everything – and there will always be something else to learn.
What amazes you most about the radiologic technology advances you’ve seen in treating cancer patients?
What amazes me most about today’s radiologic technology is how we can essentially create molecular maps with imaging that is so detailed, it allows us to target cancerous tumors more precisely than ever before. Now with the development of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) guided therapy and theranostic agents, treatment has become even more individualized and personalized to the patient.
What do you like to do in your free time outside of work?
Outside of work, I enjoy fishing, going to the lake, and spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy being on the water and outdoors.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
I would love to find a solution for chronic pediatric illnesses like cancer. As a father of two kids who have medical issues including cerebral palsy, I want to see a day where all kids can just be kids and not have to worry about doctor appointments, therapy, surgery, and all the other hardships these young patients experience daily – and handle like true warriors. The difficulties their families face can be overwhelming, and if I had the superpower to remove that from their lives I would, without a doubt.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you (hidden talent, hobbies, etc.)?
What most people do not know is that I was in two movies. My dad, now retired, was a professional wrestler. He starred in two documentaries about our family and his career. I really enjoyed being a part of these films with my family and letting people into our personal, authentic lives, which I think is something people enjoy watching these days.