Dr. Dennis Cheek Named Director of Medical Physics

After an extensive national search, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine Department of Radiation Medicine has selected Dennis Cheek, PhD to serve as the new director of the department’s renowned division of medical physics.

In this new role, Dr. Cheek will be in charge of leading all technical aspects of clinical radiation oncology operations; ensuring compliance with all applicable state and federal regulations; assigning clinical roles to faculty and staff; coordinating and overseeing educational programs; participation in didactic and clinical teaching; and administrative duties such as performance evaluations, personnel management, and budgeting.

With a strong desire to serve others and help improve the health of patients and his community, Dr. Cheek said he will take on the new challenges of this position while building upon the accomplishments of Janelle Molloy, PhD, FAAPM, who held the position for 12 years.

“I look forward to working with our team to further improve our patient service and also our educational missions,” Dr. Cheek said. “Under Dr. Molloy’s leadership we recently started a PhD program to complement our well-established master’s graduate program. I am excited to help mature this program and improve the research output of the department.”

Marcus Randall, MD, FACR, FASTRO, Radiation Medicine Chairman, appointed Dr. Cheek to the position upon the recommendation of a formal search committee and because of his “outstanding clinical physics acumen” demonstrated over the last five years in the department, his strength as an educator and mentor, his collaborative style, and his superb work ethic.

“Dr. Cheek is someone who understands that a high-quality radiation oncology department requires a team-oriented approach in virtually everything it does, and he inspires the best efforts of others,” Dr. Randall said.

Dr. Cheek has worked for five years in the Department of Radiation Medicine, at the UK College of Medicine. He started out as a Clinical Physicist before his appointment to the Director of Brachytherapy Physics in 2016 and Director of Clinical Physics in 2019. He also serves as Associate Professor and the Medical Physics Residency Program Director in the .

Over the course of his career, Dr. Cheek has devoted time and effort to clinical service, developing radiation oncology programs, and implementing new technology. During his previous employment, he helped develop and open two new radiation oncology programs at Billings Clinic and Community Medical Center in Montana. At the University of Kentucky, he has improved clinical processes and implemented new techniques. For example, he has transitioned the HDR Brachytherapy Program to a 3-D planning process, implemented a paperless workflow, and updated all brachytherapy policies, procedures, and forms. He is also adept at computer programming and has created various software programs to improve clinical workflow and patient safety.

Dr. Cheek also enjoys teaching and engaging young minds in the profession. He has taught the RAS-545 Radiation Hazards and Protection course in the spring semester for the last five years. He also teaches a section of RM-660 Graduate Practicum Radiation Medicine year-round, which offers students a hands-on perspective of clinical brachytherapy. He is also often seen mentoring both medical physics residents and medical residents.

Dr. Cheek has been a strong supporter of research efforts at UK. He has been a co-investigator on several grants and grant submissions, and he has mentored multiple graduate students on research projects.

As an undergraduate, Dr. Cheek studied math and physics at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, followed by mechanical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He then received his PhD in Radiological Sciences at the University of Texas-San Antonio.

The search committee, which included representation from the Department of Radiation Medicine and beyond, received nearly 20 applications for the position, including many from strong outside institutions that also have outstanding medical physics programs.

UK’s Division of Medical Physics is home to one of the most consistently well-regarded medical physics education programs in the country. Past directors and graduates have gone to hold senior leadership positions in esteemed organizations such as the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and the Radiological Physics Center (RPC). The division offers certificate, master’s, and PhD programs, with its Master of Science in Radiological Medical Physics touting a 100-percent acceptance rate for graduates pursuing a competitive residency match.

The Department of Radiation Medicine, which houses the division, provides outstanding patient care through the latest radiation therapy technology such as the Varian Halcyon, Varian iX, Varian TrueBeam, GE LightSpeed CT Simulator, and Gamma Knife Perfexion. The department also boasts an integrated brachytherapy suite with Siemens CT-on-rails and Varian HDR remote afterloader technology, which supports its very busy brachytherapy practice.