Dale James, radiation therapy supervisor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center/UC Health Proton Therapy Center, doesn’t think of himself as an artist. The 54-year-old also doesn’t think of himself as a hero, even though what he does helps little patients at the center who are battling big cancers every day. James, who has been at the center since its opening in 2016, paints elaborate, beautiful characters on the masks of pediatric patients from Cincinnati Children’s who must wear them to receive radiation treatment, sometimes every day for months of their lives.
“I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, but this happens when I pick up a paint brush,” he says, gesturing to one of his masterpieces. “I’m pretty creative working on cars and hobbies, so maybe it goes hand-in-hand.”
James, a radiation therapist for 23 years, has been sharing this talent with patients throughout the country for around 21 years. Prior to coming to Cincinnati, he was a therapist at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., and California Protons Cancer Therapy Center in San Diego. He decided to come to Cincinnati when the new facility opened, and he saw an opportunity to work with a children’s hospital.
Proton therapy is a form of radiation treatment used for various types of pediatric and adult cancers. A major advantage over traditional forms of radiotherapy is its ability to deliver radiation to a tumor while more effectively limiting the exposure to healthy tissues.
The facility—a joint effort between UC Health and Cincinnati Children’s—is only one of about 28 of its kind in the U.S.; it houses the world’s only gantry (treatment room) dedicated to research, where experts can determine the best way to use this precision therapy.