Sometimes the tiniest things make the biggest impact. This is something Ananth Ravi, medical physicist and operations lead for brachytherapy at the Odette Cancer Centre, knows well.
Brachytherapy is a unique type of cancer radiation therapy. It uses tiny radioactive seeds that are implanted directly in the tumour for highly effective treatment, with less recovery time and fewer side effects than conventional radiation. Not all patients are candidates for this type of therapy, however, but for those who are, it can be a life-saving alternative.
Ananth completed his undergrad degree at the University of Toronto in engineering science before coming to the Sunnybrook Research Institute to complete his doctorate. He has been with Sunnybrook since 2009, and he helped develop the hospital’s brachytherapy program, which has become the largest of its kind in the world.
“The prospect of pure academia didn’t excite me,” says Ananth. “Instead, I love using fundamental principles to create tangible solutions that truly help patients. Basically, taking things apart and putting them back together again so they work better is my passion.”
Innovation occurs frequently in brachytherapy because one size does not fit all with this type of treatment.
“My most memorable experiences often come from helping to develop a unique option for a patient, like a custom-fit applicator,” says Ananth. “Preventing patients from enduring a more painful or prolonged type of treatment is immensely gratifying. They are happy to have another choice, and that makes me happy.”
Ananth is busy on the home front, with two children under the age of four. “In my downtime, I enjoy building things. I’m working on a built-in bookcase, but sometimes that takes a back seat to keeping the kids from eating the sawdust,” he laughs.
Ananth finds inspiration in the way his team is developing new approaches, while maintaining the quality of what they do on a day-to-day basis. “I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing group. They strive to invent, while managing high volumes of patients who need us. The team and our patients are what keep me motivated and uplifted.”
Photography by Doug Nicholson