Proton Therapy Treatment – What, Why, and Who?  

Dr. Jing Zeng, MD of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center on September 4, 2019. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

Tune in to C-Sessions. . .with Randall Broad every Wednesday, October 21st at 4 p.m. as he interviews Dr. Jing Zeng, an Associate Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

There are congratulations in order to Dr. Jing Zeng, who officially became the SCCA Proton Therapy Center’s Medical Director on October 16, after serving as Associate Medical Director since 2019.

Like many, Dr. Zeng was drawn to health care because she wanted to help people. She studied at Duke University and completed her residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital focusing on radiation oncology. Although treating cancer is extremely challenging, Dr. Zeng knew it was her calling.

“It’s a privilege that my job is to help people in their time of dire need. Work doesn’t feel like work when you know what you’re doing is meaningful,” says Dr. Zeng.

As one of the first physicians to treat at the Center, Dr. Zeng initially specialized in lung cancer radiation. By 2014, she expanded her role to lead the genitourinary/prostate cancer program – at one time, treating nearly half of the Center’s prostate cancer patients.

When she transitioned to become the Associate Medical Director in early 2019, Dr. Zeng says, “I started to look at the experience of every patient who came to the Center, not just patients with prostate cancer, and collaborated with our team to optimize the experience for all patients. When I took on the role, it was a priority of mine to determine how to make our staff more available and accessible to folks that need our help.”

Now, as the Center’s Medical Director, she says her goal is to continue providing an excellent patient experience while also practicing leading-edge care. “We’re currently in the midst of technology upgrades to bring our patients the next generation of proton therapy treatment,” she says. This includes new CT imaging systems and pencil-beam scanning in more rooms, among other updates.

Dr. Zeng is also excited to oversee several opportunities that will impact and advance the field of proton therapy as a whole. This includes 20+ clinical trials currently open, as well as a program to allow visiting residents and fellows to observe the Center to help more providers learn about proton therapy radiation.

“What we’ve always strived for at the Center is to stay true to our mission and the mission of our partners, which is to provide world-class care to our patients and to remain committed to research and education,” says Dr. Zeng.

Dr. Zeng will also help to lead the Center as we continue to address the impacts of COVID-19. She believes the one bright spot of the pandemic is the rapid adoption of telehealth – which the Center will further explore to help reach the many patients who live outside of western Washington.

In addition to her exemplary work over the years caring for patients and mentoring many residents and junior faculty members, Dr. Zeng has co-authored 74 peer-reviewed publications and is internationally recognized for her contributions to patient safety, proton therapy, and thoracic cancers. She is an Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and participates in several national committees.

Dr. Zeng will be assuming the role following Dr. Ramesh Rengan, who served as director from January 2014 and is now the Chair of the University of Washington’s Department of Radiation Oncology. We thank Dr. Rengan for his service as Medical Director, and wish Dr. Zeng the best of luck and congratulations as our new director!

About C-Sessions’ host:
In 2008, Randall was diagnosed with Stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC.)  Following his ‘deemed inoperable’ surgery, the surgeon’s prognosis was a bleak one. He was told, “You best get your things in order.”  With this directive, Randall set about “re-ordering” his life by reprioritizing his values.  First on the list was his family; to have them know each other in a meaningful way.  Next on the relationship ‘to do’ list was his extended cancer family with focus on support, communication, and inspiration.   Twelve years following his lifestyle reboot, he continues amongst the living and sharing healing stories.
The cancer journey led Broad to chronicle key learnings for posterity sake.  What materialized was the Amazon best seller, It’s an Extraordinary Life – Don’t Miss It.  The book has since opened the door to the world of professional speaking and full-time healthcare advocacy.   The take away from this experience was to realize how much people engage by listening to stories…real life stories that touch on the fabric of life.
Last year, Broad subsequently created the program, C-Sessions.  The goal, supporting cancer patients in their journey by creating a healthcare-focused program designed to improve communication and collaboration between Patients and their Healthcare Provider. The bottom-line, to improve outcomes.