Feb 17, 2021 12:00 PM

Read Time: 4 minutes


photo of bill salter phd
Bill Salter, PhD

Video transcript

For the patients, it’s an opportunity to help them feel safe and encourage them that they’re going to be okay and we’re going to take care of them.

My name is Bill Salter. I’m the professor-in-chief of the Division of Medical Physics, under the Department of Radiation Oncology. I’m also the administrative director for the department, so that means that all the nurses and radiation therapists who deliver the treatments report up through me. So I wear two very different hats.

How does radiation oncology work?

Radiation oncology uses radiation as our drug, if you will. A beam, typically, of radiation that we shine from the outside in to hit the tumor and do damage to the tumor. It’s one of three components that we generally use to treat cancer. We have surgery, where we can remove the tumor. We have medical oncology and chemotherapy, where we can use drugs to attack the tumor where it is and also systemically throughout the body. And then radiation oncology, which is a local attack on the tumor where the tumor is or the tumor bed is.

What sparked your interest in science?

I met and was dating a girl who was working in radiation oncology, so it opened my eyes to the field. I saw what an incredible opportunity it was to take my passion for engineering, mathematics, and science and apply that to the medical field and help patients. At the point that this course change happened in my life, I was just about to accept a job working for Ford Aerospace on the space station and modeling of the space station and so I had a lot of the tools and was headed for advanced degrees. But when I learned about this field I called them back, told them to take my name out of the hat.

How do you enjoy your days off?

The best thing for me, the best time for me is, aside from doing anything with my family—my son and my wife, if I can be outside. I grew up in Texas—embraced and grew up in that culture of outdoors stuff. So I played sports, I love to hunt and fish and hike and camp. And so, if I’m up in the mountains— I like to archery hunt. I take my bow for a walk, I say. But most of the time that’s what it’s about—just being out in nature and seeing amazing things. And how blessed are we around here in Salt Lake City? All the amazing things to do.

What was it like growing up in Texas?

Texas was an awesome place to grow up in. My wife is a Texas girl—she has the twang and hasn’t lost it. I love that. And the thing, I wouldn’t trade this job for anything—I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be anywhere else—this is an amazing place. The thing that we love about Texas is the culture—you know, a cold beer and a barbecue and very engaging people.

What is the best part of working at Huntsman Cancer Institute?

The patient is first. There’s passion and focus on coming up with the next best way to treat cancer. I tell people that I interview that this is a place where we do the right things for the right reasons and we let everything else take care of itself. I love the fact that there’s always a new challenge. We are just so blessed to be well equipped—the Huntsman family and their support of this place and creation of this place—we always have the best tools and we’re always given the opportunity to figure out the next best way to use them. So, I’d say that’s one of the best things. One of many.

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