Turn Challenges into Opportunities, says Debbie Gilley, an IAEA Radiation Protection Specialist


Gilley’s first professional job was as a Radiologic Technologist — a health care professional who performs diagnostic imaging procedures that involve ionizing radiation, such as X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans. After two years in radiology, Gilley spent the following eight years working as a radiation therapist, after which she took on the job of a safety inspector of medical facilities for the Florida Bureau of Radiation Control. “I wanted more of a challenge and sought to help hospitals enhance radiation protection for patients,” she explained.

Gilley’s positive attitude and passion for radiation safety were well-recognized by her coworkers. Cynthia Becker, who worked with Gilley at the Florida Bureau of Radiation Control, compared her energy to that of a racehorse out of the gate. “Her determination and forward-thinking mindset challenged me and our coworkers to contribute 110 per cent to improving radiation protection,” she said. 

In 1987 Gilley enrolled in a Master’s programme in public administration, which would provide her with the knowledge she needed to become a manager overseeing the use of radiation in medicine.  

To finance her degree and earn a living, Gilley continued to work full-time while studying at Florida State University on nights and weekends. While her relentless energy was critical to her success during this period of her life, she cited her mother as being her biggest motivation. “My mother did not have the opportunity to learn beyond high school, so she always encouraged her children to do their absolute best academically. She insisted that we put education first because she wanted more opportunities for us than she had,” explained Gilley.

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