Radiation therapist Jesse Rohrer may deal with numbers and facts all day — like dosage amounts, treatment schedules and CT results — but the 34-year-old says that what he loves most about his job are the people.
“Working with patients is the best part of every day,” he says, noting that most people who come to the Augusta Health Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders for radiation treatment are there five days a week, often for weeks at a time. “You get to know people, to feel like they’re friends. We hear a lot of people say they won’t miss the treatments, but they’ll miss us once they’re done.”
In addition to patients, Rohrer says he works with a fantastic and diverse group of professionals, including physicians, support staff, nurses and others at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
“There is this big group of people rallying around a common cause and being very passionate about what they do,” he says. “That’s one of the things that drew me to it, that sense of purpose and passion.”
Rohrer didn’t always see this as a career path, though. After growing up in Harrisonburg, he went to college in northern Indiana and earned a degree in history. But, he says, halfway through writing his senior thesis, he knew it wasn’t the route he really wanted. After graduation, feeling a bit directionless, he decided to look into the field of diagnostic X-rays, since his father was a radiologist and seemed happy with that profession.
When he was able to shadow his father on some procedures, that’s when Rohrer felt the “click” of what he should pursue.
“To see how my father interacted with patients was inspirational,” he recalls. “My mother was a nurse, which means both of my parents are so compassionate, and when I was trying to think about my own strengths, I knew some of that had been instilled in me, too. I wanted to be able to draw on that and use it.”
While in school for radiologic technology, Rohrer had a clinical rotation in radiation therapy and loved it from the start. Unlike a role that requires diagnosis — in which he might meet a patient once — his profession is more about establishing longer-term relationships with patients and guiding them through radiation treatment. That means working to ensure proper dosages are followed, creating a treatment schedule, and monitoring for side effects so they can be addressed quickly.
Outside of work, he now has the opportunity to pass on that legacy of compassion. He and his wife, Megan, have a nearly 2-year-old daughter, Lucy June, and he jokes that she keeps them pretty busy. They’re hoping to buy a house soon in Harrisonburg, and he feels grateful to be at Augusta Health, since it’s not only a job he loves, but also gave him an opportunity to move back home.
“When you’re dealing with cancer, of course there can be intensity and stress, so I try to eat healthy and stay active, and leave my work in the car when I get home,” he says. “But to be here can also be an incredibly positive experience, and that’s what we all focus on, bringing our best selves for our patients.”
Learn more about radiation therapy at Augusta Health. Visit augustahealth.com/cancer-center/radiation-therapy.