Ex-US Navy surgeon elected president of cancer organization

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A former U.S. Navy flight surgeon, once stationed in Hampton Roads, now heads one of the nation’s largest cancer organizations.

Dr. David Penberthy was recently elected president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers, an organization of more than 2,000 cancer programs nationwide and of which our hospitals here in Hampton Roads are a part.

From US Navy physician to radiation oncologist, Penberthy has been a physician for nearly three decades.

“I’ve been a doctor for 27 years,” Penberthy said.

Today, Penberthy is medical director of radiation oncology at Bon Secours Southside Medical Center in Petersburg and president of the ACCC. He also served as a flight surgeon at Naval Air Station Oceana in the mid-1990s after completing flight training in Pensacola and a general surgery internship at Bethesda.

“I was with VF-101 fixed-wing fighters, so I lived the ‘Top Gun’ lifestyle. My mother actually developed breast cancer and she ended up dying from it. She was in Michigan at the time so I had a chance to meet her team of doctors and one of the doctors was a radiation oncologist and he used all of this applied technology in the field of medicine and I I have an electrical engineering background and thought it was a great way to apply my talents to the field of medicine,” Penberthy said.

Penberthy has dedicated her career to improving the lives of cancer patients, not just in Virginia, but across the country.

“We are literally surveying the landscape across America to find out what people are doing in big and small ways to improve the delivery of cancer care. My hospital is a 300-bed hospital south of Richmond in Petersburg, Virginia, and we can provide oncology care at a level that can rival some of the major academic centers,” Penberthy explained.

In oncology, Penberthy specializes in using artificial intelligence to fight cancer and says some ACCC hospitals are using the technology to create 3D tumors and remove waiting rooms.

“I’m just really, really optimistic about the future. We have come a long way and still have a long way to go and we are getting there. Slowly, but surely,” Penberthy said.

To those battling cancer and caring for someone with cancer, he says there is reason for optimism.

“I think AI has a huge opportunity in healthcare right now. The way we’ve done things in the past is probably not the way we’re going to do things in the future” , Penberthy said.

More than two-thirds of the nation’s oncology programs make up the ACCC. Locally, Bon Secours, Riverside and Virginia Oncology Associates participate in the organization.

Virginia S. Braud