LLU professor receives Alumni Achievement Award
James M. Slater, MD, FACR
Loma Linda University physician and scientist James M. Slater, MD, FACR, received the Alumni Achievement Award for 2008 in the area of health science. Awards are presented annually by the Alumni Awards foundation.
Dr. Slater was presented with the award at the 13th annual celebration weekend for the Alumni Awards Foundation on March 7 and 8 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Soon after Dr. Slater began his postdoctoral studies in radiation medicine in 1965, he saw that the treatment for cancer was making patients far too sick even as physicians were trying to make them better. The reason—with each treatment, healthy cells that the x-ray beam passed through on the way to the tumor received more radiation than did the cancer cells.
With an undergraduate degree in physics, Dr. Slater knew there were other options—including protons, which are subatomic particles that can be controlled to deliver their destructive power directly to a tumor without causing damage to the healthy tissue on the way in or beyond the tumor.
In 1970, Dr. Slater came to Loma Linda University to develop a radiation therapy program. His overarching goal was to improve the techniques and equipment used for radiation treatments—for the sole purpose of improving the quality of life for patients by doing less damage to the body and by increasing control of tumors. Dr. Slater and his newly formed team began planning for a proton treatment system at Loma Linda. However, science and technology were not yet advanced enough to implement a hospital-based proton treatment facility.
In the meantime, Dr. Slater and his team initiated relationships with the nation’s leading physics laboratories to better understand protons and continue their research and development. They also produced the world’s first computer-assisted radiation treatment planning system, allowing them to “see” the invisible beam of x-rays by superimposing it on the patient’s anatomy. This technical breakthrough rapidly spread worldwide and today is an essential part of all radiation therapy.
By the early 1980s, imaging technology, computer science, and treatment planning were sufficiently mature to embark on the final phase of developing a hospital-based proton facility. Dr. Slater headed a team of nearly 100 distinguished physicians, physicists, and researchers from around the world to accomplish this goal.
In October 1990, after two decades of planning, the Loma Linda University Proton Treatment Center treated its first patient. Since then, more than 12,000 patients with cancer and other diseases have benefited from the superior form of radiation medicine.
The Alumni Awards Foundation was born in 1995, when a group of alumni envisioned an independent organization that would help ensure Seventh-day Adventist education continued producing leaders of excellence.
The foundation is an independent 501(c)3 organization that develops, funds, and implements programs to stimulate and recognize excellence in Adventist K-12 schools, educators, and alumni. In partnership with the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists office of education, the Alumni Awards Foundation currently funds five programs.
Over the last 12 years, the organization has awarded grants totaling more than $1 million.
Dr. Slater was presented with a grant of $5,000, which he designated for the educational program at La Sierra University in Riverside.
By Richard Weismeyer