Richard Sweat is the president and CEO of .decimal, the leading outsource manufacturer of patient-specific custom medical devices in the world. With a mission to develop products that provide the most effective radiation therapy delivery possible, Richard and .decimal support Orlando Health in bringing extraordinary cancer care to Central Florida.
How did you become interested in radiation therapy?
After graduating from high school, I wanted to be a paramedic, so I enrolled in Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) classes at Seminole Community College (now Seminole State College). I had a friend who worked at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) in respiratory therapy. One day, while I was having lunch with her and the director of radiation therapy, Leslie Harlan, Leslie asked if I was interested in working as their “block cutter.” I had no idea what radiation therapy was or what a block cutter did, but I knew it would get me into healthcare, so I said ‘yes!’
All of the radiation oncologists at the time were very supportive and worked around my school schedule. I was helping to cut blocks for patients as well as collect beam data for the physics staff. Once I was finished with my paramedic training, my supervisor found me an opportunity at Boca Raton Community Hospital (BRCH) as a junior dosimetrist. A dosimetrist in radiation therapy is a technician who generates patient-specific, computer-simulated, radiation treatment plans for the physicians. It was at this time that I realized that radiation therapy was what I enjoyed and wanted to do for a career.
In 1986, I started a little side business to help subsidize my salary at BRCH. This new company eventually became .decimal. We supply patient-specific devices for cancer patients receiving radiation therapy. To date, we have supplied over 350,000 devices and served nearly 70,000 cancer patients.
Where do you see proton therapy going in the next few years?
Proton therapy is just one of the many tools within radiation therapy. With a proton’s unique ability to stop at a specific point within the patient, there can be a tremendous benefit for tumors located adjacent to critical organs, for example, tumors within the brain or up against the spinal cord. Proton therapy is also considered to be the Gold Standard for several pediatric cancers. Dr. Naren Ramakrishna and Dr. Patrick Kelly are so brilliant and passionate about helping cancer patients, one can’t help but get excited about the future!
Why do you choose to support Orlando Health?
I’ve worked with some of the world’s most prestigious cancer centers and I believe we are truly blessed to have such a dedicated and professional group of physicians, physicists, dosimetrists and therapists committed to Central Florida’s cancer patients. To stay on top of the latest research, there is a need to understand new surgical techniques, new genetically targeted chemotherapies and the newest radiation therapy technologies. The entire oncology team at Orlando Health deserves all the support the community can give so we can continue receiving world class cancer care right here in Orlando.