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Ringing Bells, Confetti Showers, and Finding a Voice: A Q&A With Michele Peterson, B.S., CMD, R.T., Texas Oncology-Austin Central

What are your main responsibilities as chief radiation therapist/dosimetrist?
I work with care teams to prepare individualized treatment plans for patients undergoing radiation therapy. Our radiation teams include radiation oncologists, physicists, and dosimetrists, like me, who help calculate precise dosages of radiation therapy tailored to each tumor and its location – ensuring each patient receives the proper dosage and experiences the fewest side effects from it. In addition, I empower the staff to provide the best radiation care possible and ensure we keep up with new technologies. It's very important to me that they learn and grow in their careers, no matter which path they choose to take.

What is the most rewarding part of your day-to-day job?
My favorite part of my job is hearing patients’ whoops of celebration and the ring of the bell as they are showered with confetti after completing treatment. Seeing patients that were fearful and withdrawn on their first visit and watching them take back their voice and independence over their treatment course is very rewarding.

What drives you to stay with one organization for so long?
The many sites of service in such a variety of locations makes staying with one company much easier. I have always had the support and encouragement to grow in my chosen career and the knowledge that other opportunities are available if I chose to follow them.

When it comes to innovative cancer care, what do you think sets Texas Oncology apart from the rest in Austin?
The people are key. Without the strong desire to provide the best care possible, all the technology in the world would not be as successful as it is here. We have specialized training provided by some of the top physicians and educators in the country to teach us how to use new technologies. The collaboration with physicians and physicists in learning and planning special procedures make coming in to the office exciting.

What is the culture like at Texas Oncology? Has it always been the same?
We always strive to help one another provide the best care to our patients – from the receptionists, to the medical assistants, nurses, doctors, and staff members behind the scenes. Our goal is to treat our patient the way we would treat our family. If it is not good enough for my mom, it is not good enough for anyone else. I have even trusted my co-workers with one the most important people in my life, my dad.

What is your favorite memory when you reflect on your years at Texas Oncology?
There are many, but the ones that really touch my heart are those patients that come in a wheelchair and walk out on their own power. We know we can’t cure everyone, but we can make the journey less stressful.

What has working with cancer patients taught you about resiliency in the human spirit?
The human spirit is what makes life worth living, there are many people who give up over small problems and those that make large problems seem so much smaller. Life is what we choose to make it. Knowing that we are making a difference in peoples’ journey of life is rewarding.