Hand in hand: Radiation Therapy Technology seniors launch mentoring program to show juniors the way

Brianna Zettel decided to be a radiation therapist after watching family members go through treatment for cancer. She saw firsthand the effect that radiation therapists have on patients and said, “I wanted a career where I could help people every day.”

RTT juniors and seniors have mentoring meet-and-greet
Radiation Therapy Technology Program juniors and seniors connected for the first time during a remote meet-and-greet this spring.

When she and the rest of the Class of 2022 joined the Radiation Therapy Technology program at Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in May, they took the newly reintroduced program from six students to 21.

The half-dozen seniors surveyed the incoming class and felt compelled to take them under their wings. “Our class didn’t have experienced students to offer us perspective when we entered the program as juniors,” said Duncan Llope. “It would have been helpful when we started our clinical rotations to be able to talk to people who’d just been through it.”

So Llope approached Radiation Therapy Technology Program Director Jeannetta Greer with the idea of launching a mentoring program. She loved it, and set about pairing each of her seniors with one to three juniors as they started the program.

“We prepare students for their clinical rotations with classroom lessons, but there’s a lot of informal advice that students can share with one another about what to expect from site to site,” said Greer. “I am pleased but not surprised that the seniors want to help the class coming up behind them.”

Zettel shares that sentiment, saying, “When I learned that I would be paired with an experienced student, I was happy I would have someone to talk to who has already gone through this.”

RTT seniors enjoy a potluck during Black History Month.
In February, a selection of the senior class gathered for a Black History Month potluck, including (from left) Shannon Brown, Duncan Llope, Program Director Jeannetta Greer, Quynh Vu and Sharanya Gullapelli.

Her mentor is Ivana Juncaj, who is excited to hand down the study aid binders she’s been compiling each semester. Once clinical rotations start back up again following restrictions put in place by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Juncaj has a lot of advice to offer her mentees in that arena as well. “I would have benefitted from getting a heads-up about how preferences and practices vary from one clinic to another, and I’m glad I can give that insight to others.”

That’s exactly what sparked the idea for the program, Llope said. “Once the juniors are able to get into their clinics, they’ll realize how much help we can provide,” he said. After all, helping is what brought him — and most of his classmates — to this profession. When he was a child, Llope’s doctors were concerned he may have thyroid cancer, resulting in more medical attention than the average 5- to 10-year-old experiences. “I ended up being fine, but that stretch of time inspired me to pursue health care as a career.”

About radiation therapy technology

Radiation therapists have a unique opportunity to blend the knowledge and skills of mathematics, science and psychology in their daily work. Radiation therapists operate sophisticated radiation equipment to treat malignant tissue, assist in designing cancer treatment through the use of 3D computer-generated calculations, recognize when a patient is having additional medical problems that require a doctor's attention, and provide psychological support for patients who are dealing with the stress of their illness.

The bachelor of science in radiation therapy technology is offered through Wayne State’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. The application deadline is Nov. 30. Learn more on the RTT website

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