When she was in high school, Alessandra (Ali) Lebano, was certain that she wanted to wanted a career in health care as a physician assistant (PA). She had volunteered at the gift shop at the Hackley Campus, but for her first summer following college at Indiana University, she wanted an environment where she could actually interact with patients.
After hearing about a volunteer opportunity at Johnson Family Cancer Center (JFCC), 19-year-old Ali “…jumped at it. To be able to interact with patients, or family members of patients, and to help them through a difficult time, and to provide them with resources really ‘called’ to me.”
As a volunteer at JFCC, Ali helps patients find information pertaining to their specific cancers at the Patient & Family Resource Center at JFCC. She also listens to their stories. One particular memory stands out among the two years she has volunteered with cancer patients during summers and holidays.
“Some of the patients have lived such outstanding lives. There was a patient in his 30s who came in one afternoon, and I ended up talking to him for almost a half hour, just listening to everything he’d done in his life prior to being diagnosed, and then what he’s done to try and beat his disease. It was absolutely amazing. And when he left, he said, ‘Thank you so much for listening; it meant so much.'” A year later, Ali continues to treasure that interaction.
From PA to Radiation Therapist
For Ali, cancer is a scary but intriguing topic. When she first began at JFCC, she wanted to get closer to people in the health care field. “I thought maybe by doing this, I could eventually get into shadowing with a PA in the hospital,” she explained. However, when she volunteered, Ali found articles related to cancer and radiation in the volunteer binder. On her down time at the JFCC Patient & Family Resource Center, she would read all she could to learn about different forms of cancer and radiation therapy.
Ali explains how her professional goals evolved: “I’d also talk to the radiation therapists, radiologists and nurses who would sometimes walk in to grab something for a patient. It opened my eyes to something different that I began to absolutely love, and I started thinking, Why not do this?”
Luckily Ali’s college major, human biology, complements her new health care career goal. At age 21, Ali has just completed her junior year. “As of now, I plan on applying to a radiation therapy program and pursuing a career as a radiation therapist, and then eventually becoming a dosimetrist*. I’ve had the opportunity to shadow the radiation therapists whenever I’m home, and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the career. It’s the perfect field for me.”
To learn more about the Johnson Family Cancer Center Patient & Family Resource Center, click here.
*Medical dosimetrists ensure that radiation treatment promotes the most lethal radiation dose with the fewest side effects to the patient’s healthy organs.