Training the next generation of experts

By Rozina Behrooz

Untitled.pngAs part of an academic health center, a fundamental component of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is education. Our doctors are not only providing cutting-edge treatment, they are also training the next generation of radiation oncologists. This includes current students from universities across the country, and radiation oncology residents and fellows from UF Health Shands, the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Mayo Clinic, to name a few. In addition, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute was the first to launch a radiation oncology fellowship dedicated to the subspecialty of pediatric proton therapy in 2011.

Here is an overview of the residency and fellowship program:

What is the difference between a resident and a fellow?

After completing four years of medical school, doctors may choose further specialization through post-graduate trainings as a resident and then as a fellow.

Resident: A resident is a doctor, training in a specific field. Residency length varies with different specialties. For radiation oncology, it is five years; one year in internal medicine and four years in radiation oncology.  They are called residents because they basically live (or reside) in the hospital or medical facility in which they are training. However, in most facilities the resident is supervised by an attending physician (also known as a staff physician) who must approve all decision-making by the resident.

Fellow: A fellow is usually someone who has completed their residency but pursues additional training in a subspecialty of that field of training.

How does the UF Health Proton Therapy residency program work?

Each University of Florida (UF) resident that comes to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute from Gainesville is here on a six-month rotation; three months with pediatrics and three months with adults.

Most of the non-UF residents that come to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute work with the pediatric program. They often come from Mayo Clinic, Moffitt and other nationally known programs. Sometimes, residents from other institutions will come to work with just the adult patients, but not often.

How does the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute Fellowship Program Work?

We usually have two or three long-term fellows both in adult and pediatrics. They come from different locations for one year with an opportunity of renewing their contracts for another year if they wish. Dr. Matthew Hall, Dr. Natalie Logie and Dr. Ronica Nanda are the current long-term fellow physicians at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

Short-term fellows are usually here for no more than one month and typically come from UF Medical Oncology, UF Palliative Care and Nemours Children’s Hospital. Also, several times during each year, we have physicians from the United Kingdom that get funded by their institutions to have a short-term fellowship here.

What about all those medical students who are always around?

We usually have dozens of medical students each year who work with different physicians as part of their official rotations. They use this time to help them decide if radiation oncology is the right specialty for them to pursue.

Teeing up to fight cancer

Untitled2.pngJoin the fellowship and fun of the 12th Annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic , UF Health Proton Therapy Institute’s primary fundraising event, is Oct. 9-10, 2016, at The World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla. There’s still time to register, volunteer and/or sponsor the annual tournament and festivities that provide crucial support for research efforts at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

The event kicks off with a dinner and silent auction on Sunday, Oct. 9. For all who register as a player, you automatically have a ticket to the dinner. However, tickets to attend just the dinner and silent auction are also available for those who do not wish to play golf.

The golf tournament will be played Monday, Oct. 10, on both of the official courses of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The King & Bear is a course that has the distinction of being the only design collaboration between namesakes Arnold “The King” Palmer and Jack “The Bear” Nicklaus. The Slammer & Squire is a championship resort course designed by Bobby Weed with consultants Sam “The Slammer” Snead and Gene “The Squire” Sarazen.

The annual fundraiser has raised more than $1 million that has directly impacted lives through the groundbreaking research being conducted daily at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Over the past decade, in pursuit of the most accurate, effective practices and treatment, the Institute has conducted more than two dozen clinical trials and numerous peer-reviewed studies, including a 5-year study on prostate cancer outcomes. To date, more than 6,400 patients from 50 states and 30 countries have received proton therapy at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and we currently have 21 active clinical studies. Importantly, approximately 98 percent of our patients participate in a registry study to track outcomes following treatment and 31 percent of patients are enrolled in clinical trials, while the national average of clinical trial participation is 3 percent.

Your support ensures the continued growth of our clinical research program, gathering the data that is necessary to advance the understanding of proton therapy.

Please join us in support of proton therapy research and register today at To donate or support the cause in some other way, if you are not available for the event, please contact the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Phone: (904) 588-1401 Email:

Health fairs to kick off 10th anniversary celebration

FPT_10yrs_FullColorCMYK_rsg_0_0.jpgAs part of the 10-year anniversary of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, we’re throwing three health fairs to celebrate your continued health and the advancement of proton therapy. Each event will include fun games and prizes, massages, information on living a healthy lifestyle from a number of community resources and UF Health representatives, and how and why clinical research plays an important role at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Each event will have opportunities to raise support for these research efforts.

All alumni, family and friends are invited to attend. The first health fair will take place Thursday, September 15, from 12 – 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on the Jacksonville Riverfront.

Other health fairs are scheduled for November 17, 2016, and January 26, 2017.


Untitled3.pngWhen: Saturday, August 27

Where: The Jacksonville Landing

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in America, and unfortunately, it's on the rise in women. On Saturday, August 27, at 8 a.m. at the Landing, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is participating in the third annual LUNG FORCE Run/Walk 5K. The Run/Walk raises awareness of lung cancer and other lung diseases. To show our unity in the battle of lung cancer, we invite you to participate for free. In addition, each participant will receive a UF Health Proton Therapy Institute t-shirt to wear the day of the race.

There’s still time to register. Signing up is simple and free for all patients, alumni, families, friends and staff. Follow the steps below: 

  1. Log onto
  2. Type the zip code, 32206, in the city search.  Your computer will automatically go to a new page
  3. Click on LUNG FORCE Run/Walk – Jacksonville, FL-Jacksonville Landing
  4. Click the “Register” icon
  5. Click “Join Team”
  6. In the “Team Name” box, type UF Proton and search for a team
  7. Click “Join” to join Team UF Proton
  8. Continue to follow the steps
    1. Repeat process for all new participants
  9. Use the code UFPROTON for free registration for all participants
  10. Please feel free to make a donation to LUNG FORCE
  11. After you complete your registration, email Brad Robbert with the name and shirt size for everyone you registered.  

Free to Breathe 5K

FreetoBreathe_Logo_Horizontal_RGB-HEX.pngWhen: Sept. 10, 2016

Where: The Jacksonville Landing

Free to Breathe is a national organization that aims to double lung cancer survival by 2022. The 5K walk is a fundraiser for lung cancer research and educational materials for patients and families. The nonprofit organization has awarded more than $5 million for lifesaving research since 2005. In addition, Free to Breathe invests in research and programs aimed to increase the number of patients in clinical trials, such as a matching service that helps pair patients with the clinical trials right for them and finding solutions to overcome barriers to clinical trial participation.

The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is a proud sponsor of the Free to Breathe Walk and we’re inviting you to join us on Sept. 10 at the Jacksonville Landing. For more information on the event and to register, visit

Executive Director Message

StuartKlein.pngApprehension. Fear. Uncertainty. These are common feelings for patients and their families, whether they live nearby or are far from home. Easing anxiety can improve patients’ and caregivers’ ability to cope with treatment. It is why we have intentionally created opportunities for people to participate in healthy activities that relieve stress such as art projects, yoga and social gatherings. I invite you to read in this issue about one patient’s experience overcoming fear and also about a research study that analyzes the experience of pediatric patients and their families from the United Kingdom.


Stuart L. Klein

Patient Spotlight: Dr. Arthur “Art” Rocker

Overcoming fear of cancer and treatment with proton therapy

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

Art Rocker_0.jpg
Dr. Curtis Bryant (left) says farewell and congratulates Art Rocker (right) following Art's last proton therapy treatment

Fear is a word Reverend Dr. Arthur “Art” Rocker is familiar with. With four close family members and numerous friends who have been diagnosed or passed away from cancer, when Rocker received his own diagnosis of prostate cancer, “fear” is the emotion that filled his body. Fear that his outcome would be similar to countless others in his life; fear that he would have to experience the same symptoms and side effects; fear of an uncertain future. However, as Rocker looks back on his life and experiences, fear can also be a positive emotion. The right amount, he believes, can be used as a springboard to propel you to do great things.

From a young age, Rocker has been a civil and human rights activist, leading others and standing up for those who need a helping hand. In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Rocker founded the organization Operation People For Peace, Inc. (OPFP) to provide a voice to the people along the Gulf Coast and to help them get back up on their feet. OPFP has since grown to provide advocacy and to serve underrepresented communities around the world.

Rocker was first introduced to proton therapy while on a business trip for OPFP speaking with men who he found out also had personal experiences with other treatments for prostate cancer, including robotic surgery and other conventional treatments. Every man he spoke with told Rocker of the negative side effects they experienced with their treatments. While none of the men had undergone proton therapy, one of them suggested Rocker look into it.

After researching his options, Rocker made his first treatment appointment at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. On his first day of treatment Rocker felt that familiar emotion of fear and canceled his appointment. He eventually scheduled another and on the day of treatment, he canceled again. A third time Rocker made the decision to move forward with proton therapy and this time it was for good. Rocker completed his treatment earlier in July and celebrated the milestone as every patient does by ringing Aud’s Chime, a large chime suspended in the main lobby. The fear he originally had had dissipated and has transformed into hope – hope for the future and strength to continue living his life to the fullest.

Throughout his treatment, Rocker continued to fly around the country serving others. He would hop on a plane, fly to a community in need and come back in time for his daily proton therapy treatment. The next day he would do it all over again. Rocker recalls that this would not have been possible had he experienced any of the side effects the men he previously spoke with had through other treatments.

“Proton therapy is an ideal cancer treatment for the businessman or woman. More than 20 different kinds of cancers are treated with proton therapy at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and treatment is less radical and less invasive than other options. It allows you to go through your treatment without the side effects that disrupt your daily life,” said Rocker. “Many other people who are predisposed to cancer should know about the benefits of proton therapy and should be able to have access to the best treatment available.”

“While the nature of my work doesn’t allow me to talk about my problems as I’m focused on helping others, my life is a testimony to the power of proton therapy.” Post treatment, Rocker’s mission has remained the same – to ensure his children and others like them have the opportunity to grow up in good communities and a better world.

“Embrace the fear and keep it alive. Let it drive you to accomplish positive things. Have patience and be Christ-like and you’ll make it.”

Health fairs to kick off 10th anniversary celebration

FPT_10yrs_FullColorCMYK_rsg_0_0.jpgAs part of the 10-year anniversary of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, we’re throwing three health fairs to celebrate your continued health and the advancement of proton therapy. Each event will include fun games and prizes, massages, information on living a healthy lifestyle from a number of community resources and UF Health representatives, and how and why clinical research plays an important role at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Each event will have opportunities to raise support for these research efforts.

All alumni, family and friends are invited to attend. The first health fair will take place Thursday, September 15, from 12 – 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on the Jacksonville Riverfront.

Other health fairs are scheduled for November 17, 2016, and January 26, 2017.

Advanced technology for prostate cancer patients available at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

SpaceOar before and after_0.jpgThe targeted, precise treatment available through proton therapy has helped countless individuals treat cancer with little to no damage to surrounding healthy tissue. UF Health Proton Therapy Institute is on the forefront of another advancement to further help prostate cancer patients have a better quality of life during and post treatment.

The SpaceOAR System, a soft gel-like material that temporarily increases the space between the prostate and the rectum, is now available for qualified prostate cancer patients. By separating the prostate from the rectum, the SpaceOAR System further reduces or eliminates the chance of the radiation dose reaching the rectum. Other technology used for this purpose includes rectal balloons that are inserted prior to treatment.

 SpaceOAR hydrogel is put in place prior to treatment through a minimally invasive procedure. It stays in the body for three months during radiation treatment and is then naturally absorbed and cleared in the patient’s urine in about six months. The temporary gel spacer is safe to use in the body and is mostly made of water.

Prospective prostate patients will be deemed medically eligible for the SpaceOAR System by their physician after consulting and imaging studies have been completed. For more information, talk to your physician and visit

Providing comprehensive family-centered pediatric oncology care

By BeckyLynn Schroeder

Noah Edgar and his parents traveling to Jacksonville from England for treatment.

Traveling to a different town, state or even country to receive treatment for their child’s cancer is a difficult experience for any parent. Extra pressure is on parents who must navigate unknown waters in an unfamiliar place often without their support system at home. Recently, published research shows that while traveling to receive proton beam therapy is not without difficulties, the programs and resources available in the United States are clearly helpful in facilitating the adjustment and turn what could be a negative experience into a positive one.

The article “The ‘radiation vacation’: Parents’ experiences of traveling to have their children’s brain tumors treated with proton beam therapy” discusses insights from research on the experiences of parents from the United Kingdom whose children have had brain tumors treated with proton therapy in the United States. Data analyzed from participating parents, many of whom brought their children to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, suggests that the time during proton therapy appears more positive than the periods before or after it. These findings are remarkable and contrary to previous research that suggests the time during cancer treatment is psychologically hardest for parents.

The findings expressed in this article reflect testimonies from parents with children being treated at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and validate the investment we make in our pediatric social services program. We know that pediatric tumors and cancer impact the whole family, which is why we are focused on providing holistic family-centered care. The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute employs a full-time Child Life Specialist who focuses on the well-being of each child throughout treatment. Behind-the-scenes pretreatment tours, age-appropriate videos, activities and interactive iPad applications help children feel more comfortable before their treatment and eliminate surprises and anxiety from both the patient and the parents. Ongoing psychological assessment and supportive counseling is provided by our dedicated pediatric social worker in addition to school advocacy, and a vibrant adolescent and young adult program.

Aside from professional support, the article also found that social interaction and distractions with other families are an important part of finding benefits during treatment. With 90 percent of the children treated at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute coming from outside of Jacksonville, including a large number from other countries, providing resources, organizing outings, family dinners and programming for pediatric patients and their families is a large part of the focus our team provides alongside cutting-edge cancer treatment. 

Over the past 10 years, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has treated more pediatric patients than any other proton center in the world. Our goal for the next 10 years and beyond is to continue to provide the highest standard of care across every spectrum and to help all that come through our doors have the best possible experience throughout treatment and beyond.


About This Newsletter

The Precision Newsletter is an electronic-only publication that is distributed by email. Each issue is sent monthly to patients, alumni patients and friends of the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. As the official newsletter of the Institute, the content is compiled and prepared by our communications representative and approved by the editor Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Special bulletin newsletters may occasionally be prepared when timely topics and new developments in proton therapy occur. If you would like to send a Letter to the Editor, please click here.


Keep In Touch

It is easy to stay in touch with us online at . Look at the top right corner of the homepage for Facebook , Twitter and YouTube icons, click and join us in the social media conversation. Also on the right side of the homepage there is a button for VTOC Patient Portal . Click here to open your secure account, view your records, complete clinical trial questionnaires and communicate with your nurse case manager.


Knowing how you are feeling during and after treatment is essential to providing you the best care possible and contributes to the care of future patients.