My name is Jenny Washington. I am the VP of Operations at Oklahoma Proton Center.
My dream to work with cancer patients came a bit earlier in life than most. While other little girls were dreaming of becoming ballerinas or astronauts, I was facing surgery and imagining a future helping other kids in the same situation as my own.
After discovering abnormal cells in my salivary gland, I received my first surgery at the age of 8.
I often wonder if I would have pursued the same career path if that one surgery would have been the cure I required. However, after more surgeries, procedures, and treatments than I could count, I determined my life would be spent in the service of others and making them well.
While receiving radiation therapy for my own tumor, my dream of helping others turned into the goal of becoming a radiation therapist. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma and spent 4 years as a radiation therapist before being offered the opportunity to go into dosimetry. After training with a medical physicist, my career shifted from executing treatment plans to creating them.
With over 20 years of experience in the oncology field, I am often asked, “Why proton therapy?” For me, it’s an easy answer. Looking back over the years I spent battling biopsy results, I want to offer better patient outcomes and treatment options. I received my first surgery at 8. My final surgery came more than a decade later, at the age of 21. At that time, patients didn’t ask questions. Advocating for our own health wasn’t something that was considered, much less encouraged.
Today the story is much different. Patients are empowered with information, and precision medicine is becoming more accessible. I choose to work in proton therapy because, as someone who has walked the journey as a patient, I need to believe in the standard of care I offer to others. I want to share a treatment option that wasn’t available for my own life – more than a cure at any cost. I want to offer these patients the best chance to live the highest quality of life available to them.
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