International Day of Medical Physics and Radiology Day: Limin Song, Ph.D., and Anthony Salazar, R.T., (R) (T)

November 07, 2022

For many, cancer care is not just a career, but a calling. In honor of International Day of Medical Physics and Radiology Day, Limin Song, Ph.D., medical physicist, and Anthony Salazar, R.T., (R)(T), chief radiation therapist at Texas Center for Proton Therapy, both share what inspired them to specialize in proton therapy and a glimpse into their day-to-day life caring for cancer patients.

Did you always know you wanted to work in cancer care, and what inspired you to specialize in proton therapy?

Anthony Salazar: I started my career as a radiologic technologist. During this time, we rotate through different modalities within the program. This is when I knew I wanted to work alongside a radiation therapy team. Proton therapy was not mentioned very much throughout my medical education, so I was not too familiar with the specialty. However, when I interviewed at Texas Center for Proton Therapy, I was amazed by the center’s technological equipment and inspired by the team’s passion for helping cancer patients in our area. I immediately knew this was where I was meant to be.

Limin Song: I studied astrophysics all throughout school knowing I wanted to be a scientist. Until one day, my dad was told he had a brain tumor. From that moment forward, I started to pique an interest in medical physics and radiation oncology. I soon realized my passion for this field, where I could apply my knowledge of physics in caring for cancer patients. Proton therapy was a newer type of radiation therapy, and the treatment’s ability to provide a variety of cancer patients with safe and effective radiation inspired me to pursue this specialty.

What is your personal philosophy on patient care? If you could tell prospective patients one thing about proton therapy, what would it be?

Anthony Salazar: Patient care is extremely important to me. A lot of people have been touched by cancer at some point in their life. My grandfather passed away from lung cancer and my mother is a cancer survivor who was treated at Texas Oncology–Wichita Falls, so this practice and its philosophy on patient care means a lot to me. I treat all my patients as if they were my loved ones. The one thing I would tell prospective patients is how advanced and precise proton therapy technology is and that our team strives to provide patients with the best possible care every day.

Limin Song: Everything we do should be patient centered. Working in cancer care, I treat every patient as if they were one of my family members. I strive to provide my patients with a level of care that shows understanding, kindness, courage, comfort, and support with a bright smile. I would tell prospective patients proton therapy is a powerful form of treatment with pinpoint accuracy.

What is your day-to-day role like working at Texas Center for Proton Therapy?

Anthony Salazar: I have a radiation therapy staff of 14 therapists and two imaging technologists running our 3T MRI and PET/CT scanners. Between assisting in treatment rooms, overseeing the CT simulations and MRI scans, and administrative duties, I am never in one place for very long. Every day is different, but always keeps me busy and on my toes.

Limin Song: During my day-to-day, I have a variety of roles mainly focusing on three aspects. First, I work closely with our dosimetrist team to create optimal treatment plans and ensure those plans can be safely delivered to patients. Secondly, I work with engineer vendors to make sure the machines are working smoothly and meeting our clinical requirements. Lastly, I provide immediate support to our therapists in solving snags that may potentially arise during patient treatment sessions.

How have you seen proton therapy benefit the lives of cancer patients?

Anthony Salazar: I have seen proton therapy benefit children and young adults specifically. As a father myself, being able to help kids and young adults fighting cancer means a lot to me. I have also noticed while there are still side effects of proton therapy, it is significantly less than those who have received standard radiation treatment.

Limin Song: One benefit of proton therapy is its precision, helping patients maintain their healthy tissue and experience less side effects. Additionally, studies have shown proton therapy can improve patients’ overall quality of life with certain types of cancer. The best moments in my career have been when a patient says their symptoms got better or that they were able to return to daily life after treatment.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career so far?

Anthony Salazar: The most valuable lesson that I have learned is that you can never prepare for everything. Always be willing to keep learning and growing from your experiences.

Limin Song: As a medical physicist, the most valuable lesson I have learned to-date is the importance of combining what you learned during your medical education and being patient centered. You can be a good physicist, but with a caring heart you can be a great physicist.

How have the patients you have worked with shaped you into who you are today?

Anthony Salazar: I love my patients. Their attitude, resiliency, and positive outlook on life has changed me as a person. They have taught me to appreciate every day, and that even when things get hard, your attitude can make a difference in how you and others around you feel. Their positive outlook while navigating such an uncertain time amazes me, and I appreciate the inspiration they have given me to provide others with positivity every chance I can.

Limin Song: I have learned a lot from my cancer patients. You realize how fragile life can be and how important your health is. I have also learned how to work through hard times with courage and optimism. I have become a softer, stronger, and more patient version of myself, and cherish every day. Working with the patients I do has been one of the most rewarding things in my life.