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David R. Penberthy '89

Professional headshot of David Penberthy

David R. Penberthy, M.D., MBA

Class of ‘89
Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Bon Secours – Southside Medical Center and President of the Association of Community Cancer Centers

I began my career in the United States Navy as a flight surgeon, assigned to fighter squadron VF-101, fixed-wing F-14 fighters. This gave me the incredible opportunity to fly on and off aircraft carriers in some of our nation’s most sophisticated military fighter jets! After my time in the Navy, my career took me to residency in radiation oncology at UVA, and private practice as a radiation oncologist in Richmond, Virginia. I currently serve as medical director of Radiation Oncology at Bon Secours – Southside Medical Center, and president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers, a leading national education and advocacy organization for the oncology community.

David Penberthy stands in front of a yellow plane in a Navy uniform
Courtesy of David R. Penberthy.
David Penberthy and a colleague stand in front of a plane in a Navy flight suit
Courtesy of David R. Penberthy.

My fondest memories from my time in the College of Engineering are…
The continued friendships made with my student peers and from playing intramural sports, racquetball, and pickup basketball games almost daily at War Memorial gym. I remember home football games on beautiful fall Saturdays, Cassell Coliseum for basketball games in winter, and the glorious springs in Blacksburg! More of my favorite memories include concerts, outstanding speakers, and thought leader symposiums at Burruss Hall. The top speakers include Tip O'Neill, Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Julius Erving (Dr. J) — the list can go on!

Giving back to Virginia Tech is important to me because…
My education at Virginia Tech provided a strong foundation for future success, and I am extremely grateful for that. I feel strongly that I should pay things forward to help the next generation.

Being a Virginia Tech alumnus means...
Being part of a dynamic community of forward-thinking people.

What is a guiding principle for your work?
I consider my medical specialty, radiation oncology, to be applied engineering in the field of medicine. I use the most sophisticated medical equipment (MRI, PET/CT, linear accelerators, etc.) to diagnose and treat people who are often navigating some of the most challenging situations of their lives. Radiation oncology is a beautiful combination of applying high technology with the human interaction of oncology care.

A project I worked on while at Virginia Tech was…
Engineering a voice-controlled robot for a senior-level class! What I took away from that class is how my engineering education helped me develop critical thinking skills and showed me the possibility of what could be done. I've always been impressed with the doors that my Virginia Tech education and engineering degree opened.

How did the college equip you for the “real world”?
I loved my educational experience at Virginia Tech and developed lifelong friendships along the way.


B.S., Electrical Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1989
Doctor of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1994
MBA, University of Virginia, 2011