Chia-Lin (Eric) Tseng: Fellow moves from Engineering to Oncology

THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE 2015-2016 ANNUAL REPORT.

When Dr. Chia-Lin (Eric) Tseng applied to medical school, he was unaware of radiation oncology as a discipline. But after learning about radiation oncology during medical school, he has focused all his efforts on becoming an outstanding radiation oncologist and researcher.

Eric completed his radiation oncology fellowship in June of 2016, and has been offered a Lecturer position at UTDRO and a staff Radiation Oncologist position at the Odette Cancer Centre.

Eric’s career developed in several different directions until he realized his passion for Radiation Medicine. After completing his computer and electrical engineering degree at McGill University, Eric worked in the finance industry. But he continued to think about his brief experience with biomedical engineering during his undergrad years. After taking the Medical College Admission Test, he enrolled in medical school at McGill University.

During his clerkship, Eric focused on radiation oncology and visited cancer centres in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. In 2010, Eric came to UTDRO as a PGY1 resident. During his residency, he worked on research projects at the Princess Margaret and Odette Cancer Centres. “At Odette, I worked on research projects with Dr. Arjun Sahgal,” Eric said. “We focused on the spine, namely using MRI to assess spinal cord motion after spine SBRT.”

Following his residency, Eric applied for a fellowship at UTDRO. He continued his research in CNS focusing on cancers of the spine and brain. “A wonderful opportunity came my way,” he said. “Since a significant part of my research was in imaging, Arjun invited me to be involved in the new MR-Linac technology that Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is acquiring.” This MR-Linac technology was co-developed by a team at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Eric went to Utrecht during his fellowship to explore the application of this machine for CNS patients. He examined the technology from a dosimetric perspective to determine whether it would be feasible for CNS patients. Since Odette will soon be installing this unit, Eric has continued exploring its feasibility after returning to Toronto.

During his fellowship, Eric applied for a staff radiation oncology position at Odette. “This is when I was presented with another great opportunity,” he said. “My mentors advised me to add brachytherapy for genitourinary cancers (GU) to my skill-set. It was an incredibly busy fellowship because I was focusing on CNS patients with Arjun Sahgal as well as GU brachytherapy patients with Drs. Andrew Loblaw and Gerard Morton.”

I received excellent clinical experiences in terms of CNS and special techniques such as brachytherapy for prostate cancer, radiosurgery and spine SBRT

Eric’s dedication during his fellowship has paid off - he was hired as a staff radiation oncologist in August with clinical duties in CNS and GU as part of the brachytherapy group. His research focus continues to be the MR-Linac unit as he explores its applications for CNS patients and its dosimetric impact while focusing on streamlining the process with an MR-only workflow. He is also working on establishing consensus on glioma contouring standards through international collaboration. In addition to this, Eric is focusing his research on SBRT for the spine, specifically examining Odette’s experience on de novo radiation and re-irradiation.

Dr. Arjun Sahgal, supervised Eric during his residency as well as his fellowship. “Eric handled complex imaging based research as a resident and excelled as a fellow learning not only CNS, but prostate brachytherapy also,” Arjun said. “He will lead us into the era of MR-based brachytherapy and external beam with his background in engineering and constant desire to ask and answer questions with the right methodology.”

Looking back at his fellowship experience, Eric is grateful for the exposure and the opportunities that were offered to him. “I received excellent clinical experiences in terms of CNS and special techniques such as brachytherapy for prostate cancer, radiosurgery and spine SBRT. I also appreciate the terrific opportunity to go to the Netherlands and work with the team there.”

Eric has already started collaborating with colleagues in Toronto and in the Netherlands. “At UTDRO, we take the interprofessional aspect for granted. The collaboration between radiation oncologists, medical physicists and radiation therapists is incredible.” In addition, Eric is maintaining contact with his colleagues in his fellowship cohort. “We were (and still are) a very close group - we talk to each other regularly, whether to discuss our research or to offer support.”

 

IMAGE CREDIT: HORST HERGET PHOTOGRAPHY

 

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