Inside will be a linear accelerator, the important machine that delivers external beam radiation therapy.
But it’s not just any linear accelerator. VCSG’s model - called Edge - is built by Varian and will be the newest model around - for both humans and pets.
For Jesse McKay, a Signal Mountain resident and Erlanger’s chief medical physicist, this is stunning, shout-from-the-mountaintop news.
“It provides access to care that pet owners don’t have,” he said. “Not anywhere close.”
For the rest of us non-vets, McKay uses an analogy for emphasis.
“It’s like the VW plant announcing production of the only electric car here in Chattanooga,” he said. “It’s unique to the country. It’s surprising a town of a quarter-million would have something like this.”
VCSG’s linear accelerator offers stereotactic targeted and conformal rapid arc radiation to the tumor; the more advanced the linear accelerator, the more precise delivery of radiation.
In plain language: The Edge linear accelerator can conform 360 degrees to any body size or shape while delivering super-precise radiation, which McKay describes as “intricacies finer than half a centimeter or quarter of a centimeter.”
This allows for precise treatment of tumors, especially those located in vulnerable positions - a spinal cord or the brain, for example. Nearby healthy tissue is left unaffected.
This means shorter treatments.
And less anesthesia.
“It will be the newest machine for pets and humans in Chattanooga,” he said. “The type of radiation this machine produces is exactly what I would want if I had cancer.”
When shopping for linear accelerators, VCSG reached out to McKay for advice. Most vet hospitals purchase used linear accelerators, but, as the technology advances so quickly, the devices become outdated. McKay offers another analogy.
“Kind of like cell phones. Those 10 years old are practically obsolete,” he said.
So when VCSG decided to purchase the newest model available, McKay was giddily stunned.
Then, VCSG made another big announcement: Dr. Jason Strasberg is coming.
Strasberg, who will move here after completing his radiation oncology residency at N.C. State University, will lead the cancer care center.
Strasberg is one of very few veterinary medicine doctors who have completed specialized training in radiation oncology. Currently, fewer than 40 doctors in the nation are actively pursuing training in radiation oncology, and even fewer are in private practice.
This places him in a rare field within the world of veterinary medicine.
And Strasberg loves it.
“It’s a pretty unique opportunity to talk to owners who come in pretty distraught. Their pet has cancer,” he said. “But I’m able to talk to them and walk them through the prognosis and generally, this gives them a better outcome than what they were expecting. To provide that is a unique thing and brings me joy. It happens almost on a daily basis.”
VCSG, already one of the largest private hospitals in the Southeast, began construction on its new center in the fall of 2022.
“We wanted to serve our community in ways we know are needed,” said VCSG co-owner and founder Claudia Pullen. “Pets get cancer, the same as humans. We offer the same treatment, the same hope, the same healing.”
For more information on VCSG’s new cancer care center, visit www.VCSGvets.com.
by David Cook
David Cook, former columnist, is a freelance writer and can be reached at email@example.com.