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Are you ready for the ASTRO annual meeting?

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | October 15, 2021
Rad Oncology
Dr. Laura Dawson
From the October 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The American Society for Radiation Oncology's (ASTRO’s) Annual Meeting will be held October 24-27. While the physical venue — Chicago's McCormick Place — should be familiar to those who have attended in the past, it’s not a complete return to normal. This year’s theme is “Embracing Change: Advancing Person-Centered Care,” and the organization is putting its best foot forward in myriad ways to show that’s more than just a tagline. The meeting will be a hybrid, allowing those who want to connect in person to do so, while also providing virtual options for those who can’t or don’t want to physically attend this year.

Change isn’t just about the meeting though. HealthCare Business News spoke with Dr. Laura Dawson, professor of radiation oncology at the University of Toronto, practicing radiation oncologist in the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s Radiation Medicine Program and ASTRO president, to learn more about her background and the initiatives ASTRO is taking to embrace change.

HealthCare Business News: Who or what inspired you to follow a career in healthcare?

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Dr. Laura Dawson: I was always interested in science and math. My dad was an engineer and my mom was a physician, so I had role models in those fields. I considered a career in engineering, but I ultimately decided I wanted to have more of a direct impact on patients, so medicine was the natural choice.

HCB News: Why did you choose oncology?
LD: Early on in medical school, I realized people with cancer are special and that their disease is complex and interesting to treat. I saw an opportunity to help by improving outcomes for patients who are going through a really challenging time. As oncologists, we aim to improve survival and/or quality of life of patients we help, and we also help them navigate through their cancer journey, providing hope and making it a less stressful experience by providing reliable information in a clear manner to help with decision-making. I realized oncology was my calling, but what was trickier was deciding in medical school which type of oncology I preferred. Radiation oncology is a great fit if you have interests in math and problem-solving and you want to be in direct contact with patients.

HCB News: Can you talk about how your career path led you to where you are today?
LD: As a medical student, I was interested in volunteer work in Indonesia. In order to fund the trip, I worked as an administrative assistant, coincidentally in the radiation department where I work today. The radiation oncologists there encouraged me to pursue my interest in the specialty.

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