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‘I loved Wednesday morning house assemblies and matches at the school’

The alumna from Apeejay School, Faridabad remembers principal, S Samra for her poise, discipline, and exuding confidence as a leader

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She was born and brought up in Faridabad and went to Apeejay School, Faridabad in Sector 15 from preschool all the way through Class XII (like all the kids in my big fat Jain family). The school, for her, was truly her second home from 2000 to 2014.

“There are so many memories. The best ones include my friends at school who are pretty much like family now. I loved Wednesday morning house assemblies and matches (even though I wasn’t very athletic myself). Teachers’ days were always fun. I was very involved in the school choir with Nagpal sir and Pragati ma’am, and was active in house competitions too, Sagarika Jain, medical physicist, James Cancer Hospital, OSU, Columbus, Ohio, USA said.


“The best ones include my friends at school who are pretty much like family now. Teachers’ days were always fun”

Sagarika Jain, medical physicist, James Cancer Hospital, OSU, Columbus, Ohio, USA



She was a good kid, this alumna said in an interview who was always way too concerned about her grades. “In hindsight, I wish I had not taken them so seriously. The only thing I would get in trouble for were reading novels in class or getting to school late. I have written many apology letters sitting in the fine arts room.

Excerpts from an interview:

A teacher who influenced you greatly.

To name one does not seem fair since all of them have had such a huge impact on my life. I remember all my class teachers – my Nanak House teachers (Shweta Taneja ma’am, Kapri ma’am), I loved history classes with Anita Thapar ma’am, Geography with Vandana Mehra ma’am, Chemistry with Nidhi Bharti ma’am, Physics with Mamta ma’am and English with Mala Kohli ma’am. All amazingly wonderful teachers! I am probably missing so many names – but I am ever so grateful for all of them. I had always been in awe of our principal, S Samra, who was a poised, disciplined, and confident leader. She brought a distinct energy into any room she walked into. If I can attain half her leadership skills, I would consider myself very lucky.

Why choose to be a medical physicist?

I had always had a knack for Math and Physics. I went to college at the University of Manchester to study Astrophysics but missed the human aspect of giving back to society in that realm. I wanted something more tangible and to be able to more directly help people. I really enjoyed Particle and Accelerator Physics in college.

I was intrigued when I learnt about the application of these concepts in diagnosing and treating cancer. I then pivoted to medical physics after I heard about it through the University of Manchester’s Physics alumni. I shadowed physicists and physicians in radiology and radiation oncology departments, both in India and the UK, and decided that radiation oncology physics was where I belonged.

How did you end up working in the US? Your professional journey.

After my undergraduate degree in Physics, I started a graduate degree in Medical Physics at Duke University. The programme was academically intense and also provided a lot of exposure to clinical activities and research. I applied to residency positions in medical physics during graduate school and ended up matching my top choice – The Ohio State University.

I finished residency training in 2021 and started a position here at OSU right after. I am very content with my job. It challenges me and enables me to learn something new every day. I also love the department and the people I work with.


You are associated with a cancer hospital. Any particular reason why you chose to work with cancer patients?

It comes back to wanting to pursue a career where I could give back to society, while still pursuing my passion for Physics. Interestingly, growing up I never had any inclination toward medicine. My present job involves a lot of work at the back end and not a lot of direct patient interaction, which I prefer because the latter I would find quite emotionally draining. I have huge respect for our physicians, therapists, and nurses who interact with patients daily.

What are some of the innovations/developments that have been made in radiation treatment, devices, and technologies?

The field has been very dynamically evolving. Just in the last couple of decades, with the advent of intensity-modulated treatments and stereotactic radiotherapy, machinery has got more precise and accurate. We have also got more accurate on the software front, with better radiation dose calculation algorithms. We are also now treating with protons and heavier ions in addition to X-rays and electrons, which offer dosimetric advantages (measurement of radiation exposure from x-rays, gamma rays, or other types of radiation used in the treatment or detection of diseases, including cancer).

I have been working in FLASH radiotherapy research, which entails delivering radiation at ultra-high dose rates. Evidence has shown that FLASH delivery can be better for normal tissue preservation while still achieving equivalent tumour control to conventional treatment. So this is something we are investigating at our institution that I have been fortunate to be at the forefront of.


How tough is it to work with cancer patients?

A lot of the treatments we offer are curative! Personally, in the beginning, I did find myself feeling disturbed and getting emotional, but over time I started to get more immune to it and learnt to instead use that trigger to motivate myself to do my job well and provide better treatments. The fact that my work is mostly behind the scenes also helps.

What is the biggest hindrance to cancer treatment?

I would say it is the fact that it is not just one disease that needs a one-stop solution, but rather a group of many different diseases. Every site of cancer is diagnosed and treated very differently and affects different systems in the body. It’s like cancer has a mind of its own. In radiation therapy specifically, we are limited by normal tissue toxicity, since there is always collateral damage to non-cancerous tissue when we are trying to target the tumour. However, we have got much more precise with our treatments and the technology keeps getting better. We have been able to come a long way in curing early-stage breast and prostate cancers through early detection and screening initiatives. I hope that with screening tools for other sorts of cancers and catching them as early as possible, there can be more curative treatments.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.

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