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In the world of medicine, some individuals stand out not only for their knowledge and expertise but also for their unwavering commitment to innovation and improving the lives of patients.
Dr. Bhudatt Paliwal, professor emeritus in the Departments of Human Oncology and Medical Physics, is one such luminary: he is celebrating 50 years of helping to advance life-saving discoveries in cancer research and radiation therapy at UW.
Paliwal began his journey at UW in 1973 in the Department of Radiology — the most junior faculty member in radiation oncology physics. It was a dynamic period marked by transformative changes in the landscape of cancer care, including UW Carbone Cancer Center becoming one of the first National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in 1973.
Shortly after the cancer center was created, UW established the Department of Human Oncology — both led by Dr. Harold Rusch. Paliwal was among the first faculty to join the new department, which aimed to align all cancer care services, research and specialties under one roof.
“Overall, there was a strong drive within the department’s faculty to achieve a high standard of clinical practice, excellence in teaching, and carrying out innovative research,” Paliwal said.
The experts in this department engage in teaching, research, and clinical services across various medical, surgical and radiological subspecialties, such as X-ray and ultrasound imaging, nuclear medicine, and radiation therapy. Paul P. Carbone, the cancer center’s modern namesake, succeeded Rusch as chair of this department and UW Carbone in 1978.
Paliwal was recruited with the task of clinically commissioning and implementing an emerging technology: electron beam accelerators. As an assistant professor, he became board certified in the physics of radiation therapy, diagnostic imaging and nuclear medicine.
Paliwal is proud of his tenure in the department, including serving as the director of the radiation physics group from 1981 to 2013. During this period, he also served as the president of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine and the physics trustee of the American Board of Radiology.
“My work was exciting and challenging. I had the support of some of the faculty who worked along with me sharing our skill sets,” Paliwal recalled.
His journey into academia was deeply rooted in his upbringing within a spiritual institution that he noted “valued life and promoted self-expression through improving the quality of life in all forms.” This intrinsic motivation, combined with the opportunity to collaborate with visionary physicians and scientists at a prestigious university, fueled his passion for the field.
Paliwal has been an instrumental force in testing new treatment modalities, developing cutting-edge technologies, and collaborating with graduate students and post-doctoral candidates. Some of his noteworthy contributions include pioneering work in electron beam therapy, whole body irradiation, hyperthermia and studies in time, dose, and fractionation to administer radiation in discrete doses at defined intervals, to optimize safety and effectiveness of radiation treatment.
Paliwal remains active at UW, where he plays a critical role in the clinical implementation and formulation of clinical protocols, quality assurance, and safety procedures for an MRI-guided radiation therapy system. This work has led to several software and hardware upgrades, advancing the capabilities of MRI-guided adaptive radiation therapy.
His journey has been marked by transformative projects that have made a significant impact on patient care. However, perhaps the most rewarding aspect of his journey has been the opportunity to mentor new researchers, leaving a legacy of knowledge and innovation.
“I am proud of graduate students and post-doctoral candidates and the faculty with whom I worked and am continuing to work,” Paliwal said.