Class of 2021 Incoming Student Spotlight: Michelle de Oliveira, Doctorate of Medical Physics Program (DMP)
1) Tell me about yourself.
I recently graduated from Wheaton College with a B.S. in applied physics and minors in English and mathematics. When I’m not studying, I can be found propagating my already abundant supply of succulents, reading T.S. Eliot (whom I would consider a physicist in poet’s clothing), or hiking. I am excited to spend the next four years learning alongside my peers at UT Health San Antonio.
2) What is your hometown?
Although I have moved around a lot, I spent most of my formative years in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It’s quite a different climate from San Antonio, but after five years there and four years in windy Illinois, I’ll gladly give up the snow for a bit more sun.
3) Why did you choose UT Health San Antonio?
I believe there are only five CAMPEP accredited professional doctorate programs in Medical Physics (DMP) — UT Health San Antonio houses one of those five. Unlike many traditional Masters of Medical Physics routes, the DMP focuses on didactic and clinical training. While you usually have to wait for residency (3rd and 4th year) to get clinical experience in master’s programs, the DMP puts you on the clinic floor on day one. Since starting in early July, I’ve had the opportunity to assist with x-rays, optically stimulated luminescence dosimeter preparation, and much more.
On top of the draws toward the institution, San Antonio is a hub of experience. From food spots to outdoor exploration to a rich history, UT Health San Antonio grants exposure to not only fantastic academics but is also surrounded by a fantastic community.
4) What drew you to your program?
I was supposed to be an English major — or at least that’s what I thought when I applied to undergrad in 2017. It was actually the words of American poet, Joel Brouwer, that convinced me to pursue medical physics with a focus in clinical application. In his poem The Spots, Brouwer writes “The spots were like metaphors. They told us something / by showing us something else. And so I believed they were metaphors. / They were not.” to bring attention to the difficulty of finding a literary description of the fundamental meaning of a cancer diagnosis. His realization of the value in — and difficulty of — finding words to wrestle with the complexity of a cancer diagnosis led me to reconsider my career path. I realized that, although I love English and appreciate those who can make a career out of it, I wanted a more hands-on experience with the human condition. The Doctorate of Medical Physics program promises exactly that. It combines the theoretical and the practical in order to best serve patients.
5) What are your career goals?
I cannot emphasize enough my long-term goal of working as a part of a clinical team. However, I am still interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in medical physics later down the road. I’m hoping to find inspiration through my clinical career to help inspire my Ph.D. thesis before I dedicate four to seven to it. Physicists often get caught up in theories that can be more convoluted to apply to a clinicians’ everyday experiences. I want to help find a way to bridge that communication gap.