When Dean joined our Toowoomba clinic as a graduate radiation therapist in 2012, he embraced the exceptional learning environment of a regional clinic. Over the last nine years, Dean has enjoyed a rewarding career both across Australia and globally.
Meet Dean Robb
Going places: Radiation Therapist at Icon Cancer Centre Cairns
He shares why working regionally can be a great catalyst for building a career in radiation therapy.
As a Charge Radiation Therapist at our cancer centre in Cairns, Dean is responsible for a team who plan and deliver life-saving cancer treatment to patients in the region. While his focus is managing the facility and team, he still works closely with patients every day.
“I really enjoy training team members and seeing them grow as professionals. On the other hand, I also find the connection to patients incredibly rewarding. You see them every day for up to eight weeks, so you get to know them and build relationships. My wife envies the number of gifts patients bring in – chocolate, wine, beer – just today, someone gave us a mermaid that she’d knitted. It had been a source of strength for her during her treatment. You really are appreciated in this line of work.”
The catalyst for his career
Gravitating towards a future in healthcare after he finished school, Dean found himself scrolling the endless list of university courses. Eventually, he landed on radiation therapy.
“I’d always pictured myself in healthcare, and so I started reading up on different options. I didn’t know what radiation therapists did until I did some exploring. I had two friends whose mums had recently passed away from cancer. So I wanted to do something that would make a difference to people with the illness.”
Setting off from his childhood home in the Northern Rivers for Brisbane, Dean enrolled in a Bachelor of Radiation Therapy at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). In his final year, he undertook his placement at Toowoomba, a clinic which would later become part of Icon Group. Tossing his graduation cap to the sky at the end of 2010, Dean returned to Icon to kick-start his career.
“I was offered positions at both the Princess Alexandra Hospital and the clinic in Toowoomba. The Toowoomba clinic was popular among young radiation therapists; they were known for entrusting and empowering graduates. This was the deciding factor for me. They let us do complex techniques years ahead of our peers who were based in larger hospitals. It was a great and safe learning environment that allowed you to hone your skills and feel supported.”
In Toowoomba, Dean also had the opportunity to work on various research projects – one of which was a huge success.
“I had a research paper published in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences. The essay was an audit of clinical set-ups across sites and identified areas of improvement. It actually ended up winning best article in the journal for that year.”
An international vocation
After four years of refining his skills and knowledge in regional Queensland, Dean and his wife Sarah, a sonographer, felt it was time to set off on a long-awaited adventure: London.
“One of the fantastic things about being a radiation therapist is the opportunity to take your skills not only around Australia, but the world. It was always our intention to live overseas. So we decided to spend two years in London, where I worked as a senior dosimetrist and Sarah worked as a locum sonographer.”
Dean and Sarah returned to Australia in 2017. And when a job opportunity arose for Sarah in Cairns, it was a no-brainer for Dean to return to Icon.
“I’d spent two weeks in the Cairns clinic during my time working at Toowoomba, so I knew it was a great place to work. Everyone really gets on. We’re one of the busiest sites in Queensland, so this positive culture is integral when it comes to our ability to deliver treatment for so many patients.”
Dean and Sarah are well settled in Cairns and have fallen in love with the tropical lifestyle. In fact, they’ve bought a house and have welcomed their first baby boy, Oliver.
“We’ll be here for a while yet! I got my scuba diving certification and I’ve recently started hiking. We spend a lot of time on the beach together. It’s a beautiful place to raise a family.”
Next steps… and advice for graduate radiation therapists
Since moving back to Australia, Dean has also been studying a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). It’s a qualification that will empower him to take the next step in his career.
“My MBA should help me further expand my career when it comes to business process and people management. I’ve majored in Project Management to keep my studies as broad and practical as possible.”
Dean offers some advice for aspiring radiation therapists:
“Firstly, it’s a great idea to go regional. If you’re ambitious, working in a rural town will help fast-track your career. The opportunities come thick and fast – it’s a quick way to climb the ladder. This is even more apparent if you’re willing to move around and spend time at different regional centres. On this point, live overseas! Many Australian and New Zealand radiation therapists go to the UK as they’re well-regarded. Ultimately, there are so many opportunities in our field – across Australia and abroad. You just need to reach for them with both hands.”