New book fills knowledge gap and leaves educational legacy in radiation oncology

With his new book on dose computation algorithms, Professor Emeritus Jerry Battista, PhD, is hoping to fill a gap in knowledge translation between academic instruction and clinical application.

Titled Introduction to Megavoltage X-Ray Dose Computation Algorithms, the 418-page book explores the physics and mathematics that underlie software used in the precise radiation treatment of cancer. The book is intended for specialists in radiation oncology, including medical physicists, radiation technologists, radiation oncologists and technical staff who support commercial software products.

The book is dedicated to the late Dr. Michael Bryan Sharpe, a PhD graduate of the Department of Medical Biophysics at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, who passed away in 2016.

Battista talked to us about how the book came about, his motivations for writing it, and the educational impact he hopes it will have.

How did the idea for this book come about?

The idea stemmed originally from a basic course in radiological physics that I taught in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Western University for several decades. While this course covered fundamental radiation physics, graduates seemed unsure about the applied physics embedded in commercial software platforms.

This ‘black box’ shortcoming became evident in oral examinations that certify graduates and residents for clinical practice. This book complements the curriculum dictated by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP), used in the Department of Medical Biophysics and in many cancer centres, particularly those in North America.

Why did you decide to write and publish the book? What was your motivation?

Our motivation was primarily educational – to improve the efficiency of learning by filling a knowledge gap for clinically-oriented scientists, physicians and technologists.

Writing from an alternative historical perspective required reading and deciphering hundreds of published scientific articles, each having inconsistent mathematical symbols and tacit assumptions. This book merges these papers into an intuitive conceptual and mathematical framework for much easier reading and rapid learning.

I am also now an Emeritus Professor and this book writing task provided a nice transition from full-time work to a more relaxed life. There was certainly a sense of educational legacy – leaving a tool that would facilitate learning of a complex topic and benefit cancer patients worldwide through the appropriate use of accurate dose computation methodology.

Who was involved in this project?

I am the sole editor and wrote several chapters, but credit is due much more widely. Three other physicists – Jeff Chen, Stephen Sawchuk and George Hajdok – from the clinical physics group of the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) made strong contributions throughout the book. The LRCP’s Physics and Engineering Department contributed as a whole by supporting our efforts and cross-covering clinical service duties during an intense 18-month writing schedule.

On a broader scale, Canadian medical physicists have made major advances in this field and their innovations are highlighted throughout the book.

Who is the book dedicated to? 

A few years ago, we lost a young medical physicist and graduate of Medical Biophysics to cancer – Dr. Michael Sharpe. He had developed dose algorithms described in this book, and this provided a strong motivating force for our writing. The book has been dedicated to Michael, and a printed copy of the book was sent to his family this month.

Read more about Battista's book and insights into his career on the CRC Press website