Fall 2021 Convocation Spotlight: Chalina Huynh, ’21 BSc in Radiation Therapy

Mother’s experience with breast cancer inspired U of A graduate to be a compassionate radiation therapist

Ross Neitz - 15 November 2021

Chalina Huynh, a graduate of the U of A radiation therapy program's Class of 2021, credits her mother as the most influential person in her life and the catalyst for where she is today. Huynh was in the first year of her radiation therapy program when she learned her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed the very service she was being trained to provide. “My mother’s strength and optimism inspired me to become a compassionate radiation therapist, constantly dedicated to assisting other patients who have fought a similar battle as her. I treat every patient the way I would want my mother to be treated,” says Huynh. 

Read about her most valuable lessons learned at the U of A as the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry welcomes her and the Class of 2021 to the alumni family.

What was the greatest lesson you learned while at the U of A?

I learned the importance of living in the moment. As a student the weight of my own expectations for myself was constantly looming over me. Any energy that wasn’t being used to study was being used to worry about the outcome of the last assessment or how to approach the next assessment. I eventually learned the importance of living in the moment and enjoying the process of getting my degree, rather than counting down the days to the next deadline or the next break from school. Although school can get extremely stressful, before you know it, four years fly by and you’ve graduated. I’m happy that I learned to enjoy the process. 

How did completing your studies during a pandemic impact your experience?

Being a student during the pandemic consisted of a great deal of uncertainty, which often led to a lack of motivation and disengagement. Online learning challenged my adaptability and self-discipline. Despite this, the pandemic served as a blessing in disguise as it helped me appreciate the value of human connection and interactions, which gave me a different perspective and approach when going into my clinical practicum.  

What was one of your most memorable experiences while at the U of A?

It was the radiation therapy white-coat ceremony. Receiving my white coat reminded me of the oath I had taken and my duty to patients as a future health-care professional. To me, the white coat symbolizes professionalism, continuous growth, compassion and integrity. It is a privilege to wear a white coat and to help and care for patients in what are likely some of the most challenging moments of their lives. I will forever cherish that memory.

What is it about your field of study that speaks to you?

I have come to realize that the field of radiation therapy and oncology is akin to a growing tree, constantly evolving and adapting to the field of medicine. I find it rewarding to be part of a profession that is continuously advancing technology and therapies to improve outcomes for cancer patients. Moreover, the most valuable component of radiation therapy is the personal connection you develop with your patients and the impact that you may have on their journey during an extremely trying time in their life.  

What advice do you have for future U of A students? 

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Tremendous growth occurs outside of your comfort zone, both academically and personally. Don’t forget to enjoy your time in university. It can get overwhelming, but it will also be over before you know it, so prioritize work-life balance and have fun. 

What's next for you? 

Upon completing my bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy, I studied for and passed the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists entry to practice certification exam. I am currently working as a radiation therapist at the Cross Cancer Institute and aspire to be an active member in the field of oncology through research and continuous self-development.