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Salisbury University alum brings medical physics to SU

Today, doctors can look into a patient’s body and find a tumor on an organ without laying a scalpel on them. They can treat benign and malignant disorders in the brain without any invasive surgery. How is this possible? Dr. D.J. Vile has the answers.

Salisbury University students got the opportunity to learn more about the field of medical physics from Vile, an SU alumni and gamma knife physicist at Johnston-Willis Hospital, this past Thursday.

With a Bachelor of Science in Physics from SU, and a Ph.D. in Medical Physics from Virginia Commonwealth University, Vile educated students on the wonders of medical physics and its impact on medicine and science.

Medical physics is the application of physics to medicine. Moreover, it is the science of human health and radiation exposure. Broken up into four different categories, being health physics, diagnostic imaging, nuclear medicine and radiation oncology, the field is constantly and rapidly advancing, improving the quality of care and lives of patients suffering from cancer and other diseases through less invasive practices. 

Freshman and physics engineering major Rachel Berley examines Dr. Vile’s 3D-printed nose bolus, a radiation oncology tool that increases treatment accuracy. Photo by Megan Souder.

During the seminar, Vile outlined each branch of medical physics and what those fields entailed. He described the diversity of diagnostic imaging and its use by dentists, chiropractors, hospitals and more. He also discussed nuclear medicine and its duality of not only diagnosing, but treating disease.

Vile also explained the variety of work one can do as a medical physicist, explaining that some physicists are purely clinical, dealing with the day-to-day workings of the clinic, while others are purely academic and research-based. With such a wide scope within the field, students felt like Vile opened their eyes to the many career possibilities available.

SU senior and physics major Adam Bognanni attended the seminar to gain inspiration for graduate school.

“I think he explained the field very well. He gave a broad description of everything he goes through on a daily basis and what branches of medical physics you can go into,” Bognanni said.

Undecided on where he would like to apply, Bognanni enjoyed the informative presentation, specifically intrigued by Vile’s research.  

Similarly, SU freshman and biochemistry major Casey Finnegan came out to scope out her graduate school options.

“I came to see different fields of science," Finnegan said. "I want to go to medical school, so I wanted to see my different options, and although I want to become a neonatologist, I still want to explore my options of other fields and not be narrow-minded.”

Whether freshman or senior, it’s never too early or too late to decide on a career path, according to Vile. As an undergraduate at Salisbury, Vile was unsure of what to pursue with his physics major. Despite his lack of direction, he applied to graduate school with the intention of an applied field with specific training.

With some inspiration from Dr. Asif Shakur, Vile decided to apply to school for medical physics.

“I applied, and I didn’t fully understand what it was until I got there and I just went from there, and it turned out to be a great field for me,” Vile said.

When attendees were asked if they felt the university offers enough opportunities for students to explore career opportunities, numerous students highlighted positive experiences.

Particularly, Finnegan showed gratitude for SU in that the school has numerous opportunities and is more interactive than its larger competitors.

“I think Salisbury compared to other schools has even more [opportunities], because after talking to friends about [their experiences], they all seem to have less opportunities at their schools," Finnegan said. "I get to meet with Dr. Lee and have my four-year plan already laid out for me, with opportunities in different medical fields like this and learning about different fields."

When Vile was asked about his experiences at Salisbury University, he applauded the school for the very personal and student-oriented faculty.

“That’s what I needed at the time to help me prepare for the next step in life. I loved it at Salisbury. I have nothing but fond memories here, but I also remember me sitting here senior year thinking, ‘Oh crap, I don’t know what I’m going to do,'" Vile said.

"And I don’t know how much this helps, but if I can at least introduce somebody to this subject that they might not know even exists, I would be very honored to be able to do that."

Seminars, although often overlooked by students, are a great way to learn more about prospective career paths and network with scholars in your field of interest.

See to learn about the opportunity of future seminars and career-oriented events.



Staff writer

Featured photos: Megan Souder images.

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