Dr. Kosj Yamoah, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, recently connected with the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiation Programs (SCAROP) for their SCAROP Newsletter Spotlight to talk about his new role and vision for the future of radiation therapy.
As chair of your department, what is one of your leadership priorities/opportunities/challenges over the coming year?
The overarching mission of our department is to become a global epicenter for precision radiotherapy with the sole purpose of improving cure rates while decreasing side effects. Our current economic climate and the changes in our healthcare systems could threaten our ability to continue to innovate in our field.
What on the horizon excites you about the field, and how is your department engaged?
Our field continues to be an integral part of comprehensive cancer care, where radiotherapy is being integrated with novel targeted therapies and immunotherapies to personalize treatment plans for patients. Our department is laser-focused on providing personalized radiotherapy using the most advanced technology. Our department is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including MRI treatment guidance and stereotactic radiosurgery, that enables gated and adaptive beam delivery to high doses with unprecedented accuracy directed at specific disease sites, minimizing exposure to normal cells and lessening side effects. Additionally, we are moving into biological personalization of radiotherapy using a genomic fingerprint of an individual’s specific tumor to determine the subsequent radiation dose.
What on the horizon concerns you about the field, and what is your department doing about it?
Our field has been experiencing a steady decline in our applicant pool and our diversity in faculty, especially for minority populations and women. Furthermore, developing creative avenues to continue to promote academic medicine and focusing on training the next generation of radiation oncologists that lead the way towards the advancements in our field may face some challenges in the coming years. Our department in leaning into this problem by working closely with our diversity and inclusion office at Moffitt to ensure that our recruitment is strategic and aligns with the institutional goals as we continue to lead the nation for having one of the most diverse and inclusive workforces. We have taken this a step further to grow our program to become an international destination for training the next generation of radiation oncologists globally.
What have you learned as a chair of a department?
When I took this job, I knew it was going to be a tough one, but what excites me and keeps me going is the opportunity to see others succeed in their careers and be their biggest cheerleader. In my entire professional career, this has always brought me so much joy. In my few months as chair, I quickly learned that as part of that journey everyone's problem is your problem, and everyone sees you as the solution to their problem even when you may not be. You quickly realize that you have more influence and less power. The most important lesson is that although the staff may think they work for you, it is the other way around – you work for them. This is true servant leadership.
How do you keep a work/life balance? What do you do to relax? How often do you unplug from work?
I am still working on that part. Work/life balance is hard for any physician-scientist and chair. I will say I have a very supportive wife, Jaymi, and her dedication to our family is the only way I maintain balance. I do enjoy watching and playing soccer, creating music, singing and taking a camping trip when I need to get away.
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