Michael Joiner, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Radiation Oncology, Department of Oncology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, has a passion for teaching tomorrow’s radiation oncologists.
He not only teaches clinical residents and medical physicists who go through the residency programs at WSU, he teaches radiation oncologists in training all over the world, from Paris to Russia to Australia. During the past 30 years or so, he has taught more than 6,000 students globally the basics of clinical radiobiology and racked up more than 1 million airline miles.
“I like to think that I’m doing good by imparting my knowledge to the next generation,” he said. “I’m achieving giving the people the best knowledge that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
For his global teaching efforts, the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology will honor him with the 2018 ESTRO Lifetime Achievement Award, which he will receive in Barcelona during ESTRO’s annual conference next year. Dr. Joiner is the first American to receive the award since it was established in 2007. He will be joined by four other doctors from various European countries who also will receive the award.
“We at Karmanos are enormously proud of Dr. Joiner for this lifetime achievement award,” said Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., Karmanos president and chief executive officer, and chair of the WSU Department of Oncology. “Dr. Joiner exemplifies what is so extraordinary about the partnership between Karmanos and the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Our medical staff receives the benefit of consulting with world-renowned experts like Dr. Joiner, which translates to superior care for our patients. I personally congratulate him on this tremendous honor.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an ESTRO member nearing the end of his or her active career and who has contributed “tremendously” to ESTRO activities. Dr. Joiner said he has no intention of retiring from teaching any time soon.
“The folks at ESTRO won’t let me” he said with a laugh.
“Dr. Joiner has been a valuable member of ESTRO for many years, and has always been very active in our society, both in the committees (namely, as member of the Radiobiology Committee) and in the ESTRO School, where he has been, since 2012, course director of the extremely successful Basic Clinical Radiobiology course,” said Marta Jayes, Governance Affairs manager of ESTRO, which is headquartered in Brussels. “The Nominating Council has therefore unanimously agreed on bestowing this award upon him, in recognition of this outstanding contribution.”
Dr. Joiner has continually taught classes through ESTRO since 1990. He came to Wayne State University in 2001, where he gained tenured professorship in 2002. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Experimental Physics from Queens’ College, Cambridge University, and his doctoral degree at the Institute of Cancer Research at the University of London. He holds dual citizenship in America and England, where he was born.
Dr. Joiner, a prostate cancer survivor himself, is a great believer in radiation providing highly effective therapy for treating cancer. He considers it a “weak carcinogen.” In fact, in 1986, he and his colleagues at the CRC Gray Laboratory at Mount Vernon Hospital in Middlesex, England, discovered the process of low-dose hyper-radiosensitivity. They found that delivering radiotherapy to the body in multiple low-dose fractions can sometimes be a safer method for fighting cancer because the body can dispose of those cells more quickly than it can cells treated with higher-dose fractions of radiation.
He also has helped develop thermoablation, which applies heat to kill cancer cells.
Dr. Joiner is the editor of the textbook “Basic Clinical Radiobiology,” now in its fourth edition, with a fifth edition on its way. He also has received National Institutes of Health funding to develop an education program to address the declining number of scientists with expertise in the application of radiobiology to the clinical practice of radiation oncology.
Besides his teaching responsibilities at WSU and ESTRO, Dr. Joiner sits in on meetings at Karmanos where radiation oncologists discuss patients’ charts. He also consults with radiation oncologists on particularly difficult cancer cases. Additionally, he is part of the Molecular Therapeutics Program at Karmanos and WSU.
However, he admits that his first love is teaching.
“I get a kick out of teaching,” he said. “You get the adrenaline rush. ESTRO has been a vehicle for promoting my teaching worldwide and helping me feel I’m doing something important. But I’ve most enjoyed being home at Karmanos and WSU. It’s a friendly place. I enjoy being part of an academic-based health organization.”
Jay Burmeister, Ph.D., chief of Physics at Karmanos and professor of Oncology for the School of Medicine, has taught alongside Dr. Joiner for 15 years, and describes him as an “incredible asset” as one of the most recognizable radiobiologists in the world, providing clinical advice, and teaching WSU’s graduate students and residents.
“What makes Mike a great teacher is his passion for education, specifically the translation of his science to clinical care,” Dr. Burmeister said. “You can see it in his excitement to teach these applications, whether it is in the classroom or at conferences. So while his scientific expertise is a great resource for our radiation oncology program, his educational expertise is also a great resource for our educational infrastructure.”
Arun Paul, M.D., Ph.D., chief resident in Radiation Oncology at Karmanos and the School of Medicine, was one of Dr. Joiner’s students.
"Dr. Joiner is what I call a master teacher,” Dr. Paul said. “His passion for teaching is reflected in his availability to his students and radiation oncology colleagues, which in many cases includes providing a simple answer to a complicated radiation biology question, often times late at night.
“As a radiation biologist, he is one of the founding fathers of modern radiation biology, and his legacy goes far beyond the text books, publications and lectures for which he is famous. He belongs to a rare breed of intellectuals who inspire the imagination and challenge the minds of his pupils.”