The future of oncology professionOne of the things that I really enjoy being an academic oncologist is an opportunity of teaching and impacting knowledge on others. I always like having residents, students and fellows at my clinic giving them an opportunity of knowing what oncology is all about and the kind of work we do. Here, we marry science and art of medicine as we continue with our routine of providing the best care to cancer patients. For a number of years, I have been involved with co- directing an elective at medical school for the senior students than expose them to interdisciplinary care for women with cancer. I offered the course at Alpert Medical School of Brown University as well as in Harvard Medical School.

Early stage cancer can be cured

My group this month included Jeehey Song on our routine interdisciplinary practice. Jeehey sent me an email saying that she wasn’t really interested with the idea of oncology before getting there. This was largely due to his belief that cancer is terminal. Even though it is said that it is possible to cure early stage cancer, once you are diagnosed with cancer, there is always a risk of recurrence and the situation is never the same for the patients and their families. Even though this can’t be called generally, cancer patients that it came across in Korea were really not women with gynecologic cancer as they had GI or hematologic cancer. The idea of cancer being terminal might have resulted from the fact that I first encountered oncology with patients with advanced cancer diagnosis.

This really instilled a fire within me and a similar experience I made me consider of building a career in the world of oncology. I encountered a man suffering from lymphoma back then and was receiving treatment at University of Rochester. Even though this happened about 20 years ago, his anguish is still very fresh in my mind and the many questions he asked of exactly what befell on him and fear of what was to happen next. Even though Jeehey wasn’t really ready to consider herself a gynecologic oncologist budding and her experience in the elective really struck many.

The many challenges of oncology

Oncology care has many challenges starting with the need projected possible shortage of professional ecologists in the near future. For those of us already in academic oncology, we should take a point of reaching out to younger generation, both of those already in medical schools and residency. Young students should be encourage to consider taking a career as an oncologist so that we can have more people taking care of our cancer patients. Together with the opportunity program of ASCO that encourage residents and medical students to join the society. If we all do this, we will contribute greatly in helping ensure that the future needs of this profession, which is surely under a threat is taken care of.