By Shell Lessen

Vince Von’s career was decided in childhood. He would not have had it any other way.

The story began in Clovis, New Mexico, a small town just west of the Texas border. The Von family took up residence there after leaving their life-long home in the nation of Laos to become citizens of the United States.

Vince, who was 3 years old when they arrived, attended elementary, junior and senior high schools in Clovis. And when he was old enough he mastered three additional subjects that his schoolmates never had to face.

They were:

*Making sure the entire family, consisting of his grandmother and parents, regularly fulfilled their doctors’ appointments. Vince was only in grade school when he took on this very important chore.

*Interacting with doctors and all others involved in the family’s health issues. The objective was to maintain the most beneficial medical program possible.

*Translating to English the family’s traditional Tai-Ka dai language which is closely related to Thailand’s tongue. Vince would then revert back to Tai-Ka dai to complete a conversations between family members and others.

‘These three “subjects” plus the years spent at Clovis’ schools provided Vince with what might be described as an education within an education at no extra cost. It was made to order for Vince, a student determined to carve out a rewarding future of his own making.

Time well spent

As for that second education, he explained that “I didn’t realize at the time that the hours I put in with so many different doctors and their allied staffs– in addition to caring for my family–fed a desire that had been in my mind since grade school.

Then as now, I had wanted to be in a position to help people suffering with serious health problems like cancer. The more serious the cases were, the more I wanted to do my best as a member of the medical profession.”

A happy bachelor

Fourteen years ago this benign dream began to give way to reality. Vince earned his Bachelor Degree in radiation therapy. He graduated from the University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences in Little Rock. UAMS is the largest academic health center in the state of Arkansas.

It is also 1,482.8 miles east of Beverly Hills, California, site of The Center for Radiation Therapy of Beverly Hills where Vince has worked for the last eight years.

Selecting a winner

What drew him all the way to The Golden State?

Plenty, as Vince saw it.

For starters, he pointed out that “the Center’s staff is outstanding. It consists of four eminent board-certified oncologists and cancer specialists, as well as an oncology nurse, a physicist and, of course, radiation therapists.

“Their equipment is state- of -the- art, providing the latest technology and a superior radiation treatment plan for most cancers. Also, radiation dosimeters are available to precisely measure radiation exposure and doses.

Only the best will do

“In addition, three first-rate machines are in operation at the center. One is for treatment planning only and the other two deliver radiation for treatment. We also work with imaging and guidance equipment to ensure accurate positioning and tumor targeting,’’ he explained.

Vince’s chief responsibility is to deliver prescribed treatment daily and make sure the plan is properly executed.

To say the least, he became quite thoughtful when asked what character traits he believes a student would need to carry out the duties of a radiation therapist.

Those who make the grade

His reply was “She or he must have compassion, and in my opinion, they should also be detail-oriented, computer-literate, a problem-solver and have a positive outlook on life.

He was quick to point out that the first and last traits named are specially important “because, in many cases, they can bring hope to patients who need it as much as medication.”

A sense of humor is another trait, not required but definitely welcome, at The Center For Radiation Therapy. Most of the patients have one—and they come in various types. For example, some “Haves” smile frequently. Others whistle loud or soft music. Then there are “Haves” who tell all kinds of jokes. “You can spot them right away. And these patients often perk the others up.

Vince to the rescue

Then there are the “Have-nots.” Quiet, pessimistic, worried. Vince has dedicated part of his job to keeping the “Haves” happy and turn sad “Have-Nots” into “Haves.”

He definitely is the man to do it!

Friendly, smiley, optimistic, good-looking Vince Von is also the first citizen of another planet ever to visit Earth. At least that’s the running gag he tries to get his patients to go along with– in hopes that cancer talk and cancer thoughts can be pushed aside and forgotten for a while.

Just imagine making small talk about the heavy traffic in L.A or the Dodgers’ latest victory or the smog with someone (or some thing) whose home is a planet named REINIER billions of miles away.

Vince Von can…with a smile.