Profile: In America and in Thailand, Viroon Donavanik, M.D., FACR, helps patients to overcome prostate cancer
Radiation oncologist Viroon Donavanik, M.D., FACR, provides highly effective treatment for early-stage prostate cancer on both sides of the globe: at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care and in his native Thailand.
“In my country, unfortunately there is no one who has my experience and skills,” Dr. Donavanik says.
Every three months, he devotes two intensely busy weeks in Thailand to treating patients from Asia and as far afield as the Middle East. He resides in a suite at the hospital.
“I need to be available at all times,” he says. “The traffic in Bangkok is horrendous, and it can take up to an hour to travel only a few kilometers. But I love my work so much it doesn’t feel like work. There is no place I am happier than when I am with my patients.”
His first trip to Bangkok’s Piyavate Hospital in 2007 was at the invitation of the developer of Red Bull energy drinks, who also is the majority owner of the hospital. At that time, only about 700 low-dose-rate brachytherapies for early-stage prostate cancer had been performed in Thailand. Most of the procedures had poor outcomes due to physicians’ lack of clinical expertise.
Dr. Donavanik organized the Radiation Oncology Prostate Brachytherapy Program at Christiana Hospital in 1997. He and his partner, Adam Raben, M.D., have treated more than 2,400 cases thus far. He has personally treated 1,800 cases, with a 97 percent cancer-free survival rate after five years.
At his home in Delaware, Dr. Donavanik maintains an equally productive pace working in his practice at Christiana Care and volunteering at the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington, where he provides screenings for prostate cancer and educates men about the warning signs of the disease.
His work in Thailand has brought international attention to the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, according to Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., FACS, Bank of America endowed medical director of the Cancer Center. Dr. Donavanik recently completed the second edition of an instructional DVD on brachytherapy techniques, recorded in Thai and English. In the introduction, Dr. Petrelli writes, “It is rare to use the word ‘expert’ in medicine. However, without question Dr. Donavanik fulfills the definition.
“His expertise in the treatment of prostate cancer, especially with brachytherapy, is unsurpassed. He has brought international recognition to himself and the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center. Christiana Care is very fortunate to have him on staff.”