Editor Spotlight: Dr. Jason Ye

spotlights May 11, 2020

Dr. Jason Ye is an Assistant Professor in Radiation Oncology at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. When he was a resident at NYP/WC, he started the department's first medical student education curriculum as part of the multi-institutional Radiation Oncology Education Collaborative Group. Dr. Ye is the Head and Neck Associate Editor for radiation oncology at theMednet!

Dr. Jason Ye, who is currently an Assistant Professor at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, has always had physicians in the family. "I was exposed to medicine at a very early age; my mother and grandfather were practicing physicians in China, and currently my mother does cancer research in a lab." Dr. Ye studied biology in middle and high school, and was vehemently interested in the scientific aspects of it. He also recalls specifically of medicine, "in many fields, the customer is always right. But what's unique about medicine is we [as physicians] are expected to redirect our patients to do the right thing. It's a very different take and rewarding aspect of the field," Dr. Ye says.

In eighth grade, Dr. Ye moved to the US. That early exposure to and interest in medicine motivated him to apply to Boston University's seven year medical program which guaranteed his acceptance to BU's school of medicine as a high school senior after a pre-med focused undergraduate degree. During college, Dr. Ye faced a unique opportunity: "I was trying to get involved in various fields of medicine at BU, and found that people were more than willing to mentor you. That's why I developed an interest in oncology. I worked in a medical oncology lab and clinic, as well as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's thoracic surgery department, where I conducted lung cancer staging and prognosis research. The cancer patient population is both extremely grateful and kind. They're going through a terrifying diagnosis that no one wants to go through, but they're so grateful for the care they receive."

As Dr. Ye entered medical school, he was still deciding on a focus in oncology: "on a whim, I was searching on the Boston Medical Center website, looking at different departments, and happened upon radiation oncology. At the time I didn't even realize radiation oncology was a separate specialty." With his curiosity piqued, Dr. Ye emailed the chair of the department, who then referred him to a faculty member who had an interest in mentorship and education. He was able to shadow her in clinic, and came to love the work. "It's an ideal mix of clinical medicine, research, and technology. Radiation oncology reminds me of my parents, because my dad was a software engineer and my mom is in cancer research."

Dr. Ye holds a special interest in upcoming research that is shaping modern practice. "I'm particularly excited about a recently published paper discussing partial breast radiation which offers more convenient scheduling for our patients, and results in fewer short term toxicities. More accessibility and convenience is an important end-goal." In collaboration with his former institution, Dr. Ye currently has a clinical trial protocol on partial breast irradiation that is even more convenient than the current standard, and he hopes it could become widely adopted one day. Dr. Ye is also watching for advances in immunotherapy and radiation therapy interactions, especially in high-dose focused radiation, called Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). Of note, he is a participant in an ongoing trial that combines SBRT radiation with immunotherapy to explore the possibility of killing a primary tumor and having the immune system take care of the rest!

One of the most memorable aspects of being a physician in oncology for Dr. Ye is the advancements made in the field of radiation oncology since he first learned about it in medical school. "Recently, a patient of mine presented with lung cancer: a large tumor in one lobe and satellite nodules in another. In medical school, I remember these were particularly challenging cases to treat, but with the advancement of radiation technology and better systemic therapy, there is now more hope for these patients. We gave her chemoradiation, and she had a remarkable response. She's been disease-free for three years now; I actually got to bring her to one of our USC football games honoring cancer survivors. We give patients hope all the time; it's amazing when we get hope ourselves as doctors."

There are still challenges ahead for Dr. Ye and the field of oncology as a whole. He explains, "we're doing better, but we aren't curing everyone. I want to give my patients hope, but it can be disappointing when cancer comes back after remission. That's why we aim to minimize the degree of pain and suffering, and give patients the right expectations. I don't want them to suffer or have any regrets. In many ways I think I gain more experience and know what to expect with bad news. Of course, it always helps to know that medicine is constantly improving."

One of those improvements is at the intersection of medicine and technology: "the more I read on theMednet, the more I recognized that nothing is a 'textbook case'. There will always be exceptions. When you apply data, you're always extrapolating, which means a lot of gray areas appear. Picking the brains of national experts is an invaluable service; being one of the first to participate in the website after its launch, I really believe in theMednet's process." On top of being naturally curious, other qualities that make a great doctor according to Dr. Ye are compassion and advocacy: "be willing to never settle. Your patients can sense when you're an advocate for them, and seeing that trust can be very therapeutic for both parties."

Outside of medicine, Dr. Ye is an avid scuba diver! "I started getting into scuba diving around five or six years ago, and now half of my vacation trips revolve around diving." He is certified in advanced open water diving, and has completed dives in the Cayman islands, Hawaii, the Great Barrier Reef, and Belize, among others!

Brendan Bense

Brendan is an Editorial Assistant at theMednet, and an author for theMednet Blog. He's a Philly native, with a passion for technology, creative writing, and travel.