UHD Alumnus Isaac Valdez Joins Fight to End Cancer
By Mark Kramer
In the heart of the Texas Medical Center, University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) alumnus Isaac Valdez is playing a vital role in helping patients fight cancer.
Valdez, a first-generation college graduate, earned his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from UHD in the fall of 2014. Presently, he serves as the clinical program manager in the department of Radiation Oncology Business Services at the MD Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center. He received a second bachelor’s degree in medical dosimetry and a master’s degree in radiologic sciences from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center – School of Health Professions and subsequently commenced his career in the radiation oncology field as a certified medical dosimetrist at the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center.
After graduation from UHD, Valdez taught high school math in Aldine ISD for one year. Then, he applied for the medical dosimetry program at MD Anderson and was accepted.
The rest is history.
“One of the greatest things about what I do is being here for the patients,” Valdez said. “This profession was a perfect fit for me, because I'm able to meet new people and also combine my academic skills in math, science and technology. I always want to do whatever I can to make sure our patients always receive the best care possible.”
Valdez manages the coordination of patient access to proton beam therapy alongside radiation oncologists, medical dosimetrists, medical physicists and radiation therapists who collaboratively create and deliver highly customized radiation treatment plans designed to target cancer while sparing normal tissues. Every day, he puts his analytical thinking skills and mathematics knowledge to work as he is responsible for computing dose calculation parameters to ensure the delicate balance of safely treating his patients.
“At MD Anderson we pride ourselves with individualizing medicine,” he emphasized. “I work with a team in the planning of each patient and devise a plan that will address their specific needs.”
Valdez believes that his UHD education has been essential to his professional success.
“The smaller class sizes were perfect for me in pursuing a degree in mathematics and I was really able to build relationships with professors as well as friendships and contacts with other students," he added.
In addition, Valdez said that UHD's diverse student population also served as a benefit in preparing him for his career.
“Every day is different, every patient has different needs,” he said. “At UHD, there were students from all walks of life and backgrounds and those diverse backgrounds were embraced. That made the transition to the professional world a seamless one.”
One professor that made a major impact on Valdez was his applied mathematics professor, Dr. Vasilis Zafiris.
“He encouraged me to keep an open mind and explore different areas where I could best utilize my skills,” Valdez said. “There were many other professors who made an impact on me and I now consider them colleagues and friends.”
As a successful medical professional, Valdez enjoys returning to UHD to share his knowledge. As a student, Valdez was a member of the Scholars Academy—a specialized program for students pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Last year, he was featured as a panelist at UHD’s "Gator Grit in STEM: Salute to Stephen Hawking." Valdez also served as the keynote speaker for the UHD Greater Texas Foundation (GTF) Scholars Program’s fall retreat.
“Being able to participate in these programs and share my experiences with students is an honor and something I really cherish,” Valdez said. “I always sought out mentors when I was attending UHD. I hope that my journey can inspire others.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts over 50,000 alumni and offers 44 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College).
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.