First-hand clinical experience is giving Terenz Escartin an edge in the research world. As a licensed radiation technologist, he is working on research questions that have a direct impact on his profession. An MSc candidate with the Department of Medical Biophysics, Escartin is supervised by Robarts scientist Ian Cunningham, PhD.
In this Q&A, the trainee discusses his current research, the benefit of clinical experience and the unique environment at Robarts.
What is your background?
I was born in the Philippines. I came to Canada in 2004 when I was 11 years old. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, St. George Campus, in medical radiation science, specializing in radiological technology.
I’m a licensed x-ray technologist and completed my clinical training at Sunnybrook Hospital, as well as SickKids for a paediatric rotation and Baycrest Hospital for a geriatric rotation.
What research projects are you currently working on?
My current work relates to x-ray imaging. One of the problems that exists in the clinical environment is that the dose efficiency of x-ray detectors isn’t quantitatively measured because it requires specific expertise and instrumentation. In the Cunningham lab, we’re focused on providing the ability for end-users to measure the dose efficiency of detectors in the clinical setting to ensure the best health care is delivered to the patient.
Dose efficiency for x-ray means using the lowest acceptable radiation exposure to the patients without compromising the diagnostic quality of images acquired. It’s a balance. For example, increasing exposure to the patient will result in good images, but that doesn’t mean the detector itself is very good, it just means you’ve exposed the patient to higher levels of radiation to get better images.
The fundamental metric that determines this dose efficiency in detectors is called the detective quantum efficiency (DQE). Our lab is trying to provide the ability to measure DQE in clinical environments, and we’re currently developing a prototype for this purpose.
An area where this is important is mammography. With breast cancer, it’s crucial that the early manifestations of the disease are detected. X-ray imaging is often the first line of defence for breast cancer screening. We want to be able to retain the high quality of images without over exposing patients to radiation. So we need to identify how well our detectors are performing, and adjust as necessary.
Why did you trade the clinic for the lab, and how does your clinical experience give you a unique perspective?
The clinic was a great place for me to be, but I also wanted to contribute more. My research interests were sparked during my time at Sunnybrook studying cardiac CT imaging, and I realized I wanted to be on the cutting edge of medicine.
My background gives me perspective on the symbiotic relationship that exists between basic science and the clinic. I understand the current limitations in delivering patient care and am able to apply this way of thinking to my research.
What stands out to you about the research environment at Robarts?
Research at Robarts is very translational. That’s what hooked me. The mentality is multidisciplinary and collaborative, bringing together a variety of skills to solve clinical problems. I want to contribute to research in medicine that doesn’t just end in a lab. I am passionate about translating research in medicine to the clinic, and Robarts allows me to pursue this.
My colleagues and peers here also challenge me to be my best, and we all learn a lot from each other.
What’s next for you in your career?
I plan to defend my thesis this year, and I’d like to stay involved in health care in both clinical and research capacities. Pioneering shifts in thinking within my profession as a raditation technologist is exciting to be a part of, so I’m hoping to continue. In imaging research, there’s never a dull moment, the field is so diverse and there’s so much to learn.
What special interests or hobbies do you have?
I like staying active. Basketball is my first love – I started playing at age three. I also play volleyball, and enjoy reading novels and biographies in my spare time. The next book on my list is a Jackson Pollock biography. And I like to try new things – food, activities, travel – being adventurous makes life more fun.