Scholarship Endowment Sparked by Dedication to Patients and the Profession

May. 2, 2017

LynneMichaelBook_450It was a part-time job in high school for Lynne Eggert, M.A.L.S., R.T.(R)(T), and a severe injury for Michael Moore, R.T.(R)(T), CMD, that put them on the path to a radiation therapy career. Both experiences changed the course of their personal and professional lives. After more than 30 years in the profession, they saw the ASRT Foundation Celebration Campaign as the perfect opportunity to support the future of the radiologic sciences.

Lynne’s Path to Radiation Therapy

“When I was in high school, my parents bought me a car but told me I would have to pay for insurance and gas on my own,” Lynne said. “One of my best friends’ dads was a radiologist at Rutherford Hospital in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, and he offered me a part-time position working in the radiology department.”

Lynne credits her friend’s dad, Dr. Stewart Mooring, for making her believe she could do more than she ever thought possible. It was his encouragement and belief in her that led her to apply to a radiography program after graduating high school early at the age of 17.

“I grew up in a small town where many went to work in the textile mills right out of high school. If they were able to go to college, women normally became nurses, teachers or secretaries. I thought that’s what I would do as well,” she said. “Dr. Mooring was the first person who made me believe I could do something else. He even went so far as to help me find leads on schools I could apply to after I graduated.”

Lynne was accepted into the radiography program at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, but being accepted was only the first hurdle she had to overcome. Because she was only 17 and the law mandated that students had to be 18 to begin the program, she had to petition the governor to approve her acceptance into the program.

The governor granted her request and she completed the program at Mercy Hospital. She later went on to earn her radiation therapy certificate from Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta before completing a bachelor’s degree in biology at Greensboro College in Greensboro, North Carolina, and a master’s degree in liberal studies from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Michael’s Path to Radiation Therapy

Michael was planning on a career in the cotton mill industry in his small Alabama town when he broke his elbow. He said the injury was a blessing in disguise, as it opened doors to careers he had never dreamed possible.

“My senior year of high school, I received a baseball scholarship to go to college,” he said. “I was also working in the local cotton industry at a cotton mill through a co-op program. In the program, the company would pay for your education with the understanding that you would return after college and work in one of their mills. As part of the program, I had to work in every department of the mill before leaving for college.”

After working in the mill and doing all those jobs, Michael realized the hard life he was getting himself into, but it was the only way of life he knew. Then he had his arm crushed, and things changed.

“When I was injured, the life I had been preparing for started to slip away, and I found myself unsure of what I wanted to do,” Michael said. “Receiving multiple x-rays while my arm healed opened my eyes to the different types of jobs that were available outside of my home town. I spoke with those who were taking my x-rays, and they got me really interested in the profession. I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

He entered the radiography program at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. In his second year of radiography school, he did a rotation through a radiation therapy department and knew that it was the right specialty for him. After working for a full year as a radiographer, he was accepted into the radiation therapy program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. Six months into the program, he transferred to the Grady Memorial Hospital program because St. Joseph’s lost its program director and he was concerned that the program would no longer be accredited and he wanted to be eligible to sit for the ARRT board examination.

It was in 1983 at Grady Memorial Hospital that Lynne and Michael’s paths crossed. “I had a similar experience as Michael; when I did a rotation through radiation therapy, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue,” Lynne said. “I applied to the program at Grady and when I went for my entrance interview, Michael was the senior student who gave me a guided tour of the hospital. We’ve been friends ever since.”

Experience in the Profession

After graduating from the radiation therapy program, Michael moved to Columbus, Georgia, and began working at the hospital where he still works today.

“My mom made a lot of sacrifices to help make sure I could go to school. By the time I graduated from the program at Grady, she was ill,” Michael said. “I took the job in Columbus because it was only a half an hour away from where she lived. I’ve been working here now for over 33 years.”

He started out working as a staff therapist before becoming a manager. After being a manager for 12 years, he became a medical dosimetrist, and has been doing dosimetry for the past 12 years. The biggest thing he realized during his career is the responsibility of the position.

"Once you have experience, you become an advocate for the patients,” he said. “You’re looking out for their best interest and making sure they receive the best treatment they can from you and your facility. This is one of the few professions where you get to know your patients. You often get to know their families, their hopes, their dreams…You are their soft place to land during their difficult time, and while it can be draining, it also can be incredibly rewarding.”

Lynne worked as a staff therapist until 1996 when she transitioned into education. She became a program director 10 years later, and has been the radiation therapy program director at Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia, since 2010.

In 2001 Lynne lost her husband, Jerry, to cancer. After he passed away, many of her colleagues and family thought she wouldn’t be able to return to the clinic or continue working as a radiation therapy educator, she said. However, the incredible care and support that she and her husband received during the course of his treatment served to reinforce for Lynne how important radiation therapists are in the lives of their patients and families.

“I love getting to work with patients and students,” she said. “I fell in love with radiation therapy because you get to develop relationships with your patients. I didn’t want to just see my patients once and not know how things turned out for them. I wanted to get to know them throughout their treatment.”

Working with patients still brings joy to Lynne’s day and makes her appreciative of everything she has in her life, she said. She knows that even her worst day is better than some of her patients’ best days, and that helps keep her grounded in her work and stay focused on what’s important: the patients.

“As an educator, being able to inspire students to have that love for patients and their families is a reward,” she said. “The relationships I’ve built with patients go on forever. Years after treatment, I still have patients that come up and embrace me when I’m at the grocery store or gas station. That’s how much having a good therapist by their side through treatment meant to them. It’s that dedication to patients that I try to foster in all of my students.”

Planning for the Future

Michael and Lynne both feel that the only true measurement is time. Whether it’s giving their patients more time with family, or reflecting on their careers, which they feel just began yesterday, they both have a deep appreciation for planning ahead. When they talked about what they wanted to do with their estates, they knew they wanted to leave behind something that would help change people’s lives.

“You always think you have time, but unfortunately, in our profession we know that’s not always the case,” said Michael. “That’s why Lynne and I decided to arrange a planned gift to the Foundation’s Celebration Campaign now.”

They chose to create an endowed scholarship with their planned gift largely because of Lynne’s involvement with the Foundation’s Scholarship Review Committee. “I know the opportunities the Foundation provides and the difference it makes in so many people’s lives,” Lynne said. “I would hate to think that someone out there who has the knowledge, empathy and skill to be a great therapist wouldn’t be able to do it because of financial reasons.”

They also looked at this as an opportunity to pay it forward, Michael said. “We wanted to endow the scholarship to ensure it goes on forever. We know this gift will make a difference not only in the lives of the award recipients, but also in the lives of the families and patients they will work with during their career,” he said.

“We find it important to encourage each other every day,” Lynne said. “Sometimes we’ll just text each other out of the blue and say something like, ‘I know you made a difference in someone’s life today.’ This gift is our message of encouragement to future radiation therapists.”