A photo of a man in a black jacket smiling
Geoffrey Robb believes his background in the military and as a cancer patient has helped him connect with patients. (Photo by Amanda MacDiarmid, Stellar Exposures)

Class of 2024: Cancer survivor Geoffrey Robb has lived his work

The Navy veteran brings experience and empathy to the classroom and to patient care in clinical radiation sciences.

Share this story

Helping people. That’s the reason Geoffrey Robb joined the Navy, became a registered radiologic technologist and will now graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University in May with a bachelor’s degree in clinical radiation sciences from the College of Health Professions

“His outgoing nature and caring attitude really stand out. He’s sensitive to those around him,” said Melanie Dempsey, Ph.D., radiation therapy director and one of Robb’s professors. “He already had well-established patient care skills. Every facility he has worked for has raved about his patient care skills as well as his technical skills.”

Patients often comment about Robb’s pleasant personality. On their last day of oncology radiation, one patient commented to Robb that the process has been scary but “coming to see you everyday has not only been easy, but it also has been enjoyable.”

That’s the type of validation that warms his heart, he said.

When talking to cancer patients, he is sincere because he has walked in their shoes. Shortly after joining the Navy at 18, Robb learned he had thyroid cancer. That’s when he was introduced to radiation therapy. It changed his life and his career goals.

“My cancer diagnosis put me in a place that helps me to resonate with the patients. My thought was ‘I’m going to be fine’ and usually the patients seeking treatment are fighters, and we try to reinforce the mindset that they’ll be fine,” he said. “Coming in everyday although they’re fatigued from radiation and chemo treatment and dealing with all the other struggles of life takes a fighter.”

Robb believes his military training has helped him navigate his work with patients.

“I was an aviation mechanic and pilots depended heavily on our integrity and vigilance. I think it transfers well in taking care of patients,” he said. “We had to be attentive to their needs and adaptable to urgent situations.”

After receiving a degree in radiography in 2021 from Tidewater Community College, the New York native began working at a medical facility, performing computed tomography scans. He moved from Virginia Beach to Richmond with his wife and two daughters when he was accepted at VCU and started classes in the Department of Radiation Sciences.

In the classroom, Robb brings a “very different perspective from a lot of different angles. He brings a certain maturity. He has been delightful,” Dempsey said. “He takes care of his classmates.”

The students in his class of 12 have all grown close, Robb said.

“I’ve enjoyed the extended family I’ve made at this school. I have friends that I think will be a part of my life indefinitely,” Robb said. “We’re all so close. We’re all so culturally different and I absolutely love that.”

While he’s been at VCU, Robb has volunteered to talk to high school students about radiation sciences and to members of Virginia’s legislature about the shortage of radiologic technologists and how that affects other areas of health care.

Robb praised Dempsey and fellow professor Timmerie Cohen, Ph.D., for playing an important role in his success — which he hopes to build on by pursuing a master’s degree in radiation sciences.

“It helps that the class is smaller so we each seem to get individual attention when needed. But they’ve also given me help in my personal life,” Robb said. “It’s not all academics. We’re people too. We have our struggles and they’ve been there and have been extremely supportive from the start. I love them.” 

He says whatever he does he tries to bring a smile and good energy to any place he goes.

“I’m usually a goofball. I’m just glad my professors tolerated it and didn’t kick me out,” he said in jest. “I’m probably their favorite."