Posted 1:56 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024

UWL Alumnus Jacob Wudtke earned his undergraduate degree in Radiation Therapy and continued years later to pursue a graduate degree in Medical Dosimetry from UWL. Wudtke, now a medical dosimetrist, works at UW-Health in Madison. 

Alumnus Jacob Wudtke shares wisdom from caring for cancer patients 

UWL Alumnus Jacob Wudtke started a career helping cancer patients after his 2019 graduation from UWL with a degree in Radiation Therapy. Delivering radiation treatments at UW-Health and the Northwestern Medicine Proton Center, Wudtke says as much as he was helping patients fight cancer, they were also helping him. As they shared their lives with him — stories of children, spouses, and work — he learned how he wanted to live. 

He applied the lessons below as he embarked on a new educational journey, earning a graduate degree in medical dosimetry from UWL in December 2023. While earning his MS in medical dosimetry degree, Wudtke was able to keep building on his knowledge of patient care and radiation therapy. 

What is Medical Dosimetry?  

Medical dosimetrists apply physics, anatomy, computational algorithms, and critical thinking to create a cancer treatment plan for radiation to target a tumor while sparing surrounding organs. A medical dosimetrist plays a critical but often unseen role in cancer treatment alongside the radiation oncologist (the doctor who leads the patient’s treatment) and the radiation therapist (the medical professional who delivers the treatment).  

The UWL Medical Dosimetry graduate program is offered online and includes extensive clinical training.  

Life lessons 

Wudtke shared these lessons with fellow graduates as part of UWL’s December 2023 graduate hooding ceremony. We’ve reprinted them here with his permission. Wudtke, now a medical dosimetrist, works at UW-Health in Madison. 

No. 1, resiliency.  

To get through life’s challenges, one must be resilient. In my time thus far in radiation oncology, I truly learned the meaning of never giving up. I learned that by working with people who would stop at nothing to beat their cancer diagnosis. Returning day after day when they have every excuse to give up, but never do. Graduates, today we are awarded our degrees, but the true challenge is just beginning as we start our professional careers. There will undoubtedly be times of hardship, both personally and professionally. That is unavoidable. It is okay to struggle, but it is never okay to give up. We owe it to our friends, parents, spouses, and children who have supported us all this time to be the best version of ourselves. Which leads me to my next lesson. 

No. 2, family is everything.  

Over time, I learned that family is not limited to blood relation. Family is anybody who would give you the shirt off their back in a time of need. When I walk down the halls at UW-Health, I am overwhelmed and overjoyed when I see friends and family there to support those who are going through difficult times. At my facility, there is a bell on the wall, and ringing it signifies the completion of treatment. When a patient rings that bell, applause and cheering can be heard throughout the entire department. It is enough to give you chills as well as a great understanding of the importance of support. On a personal note, I owe much of who I am today to the sacrifices my family has made for me. As I glance at the crowd, I recognize many loved ones present. To all of you, our journey to this moment wouldn’t have been possible without your unwavering support. Your encouragement has carried us through the early mornings and late nights filled with demanding coursework and clinicals. We never know what challenges others are going through. By being supportive and offering a helping hand, we can make the world a better place for those around us.  

No 3, Never take a day of your life for granted.  

Every day for the past four years I have seen people fighting for their lives. Life is precious, and we never know what is in store for us at any given moment. Life is too short to live with regrets. Take the trip, make memories, hug your loved ones, and live life to its fullest. We owe it to each other to be the best version of ourselves. We never know when the experiences we are taking, are going to be just memories.

Tomorrow morning, I start my career as a medical dosimetrist. As you start your careers, I challenge you to find your why. Find your reason to excel at your profession every day.  As for my why, it can be explained by one simple gesture from a woman who changed my life forever several years ago. She was a patient my teammates and I treated for several weeks and at the conclusion of her treatment, she gave me a big hug and told me,  “Jacob, Thank you, if not for the work of you and your teammates, I might not be able to watch my son graduate high school.” Tugged at my heart strings quite a bit, but after that, I knew that I wanted to do whatever it took to make sure I am making my biggest contribution to the oncologic community. Stories like hers are the reason I decided to pursue my graduate degree. They are the reason I will give my 110% every day. Finding yours will get you through the difficult times. Anything in life that is worth doing is worth over doing. When we strive to be the best version of ourselves, there is no room for moderation. Take every opportunity possible to learn and grow. Find your passion, and you will be surprised at how quickly your occupation no longer feels like work.