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Meet Elizabeth R. Plimack, MD, MS

Sep 03, 2020

Chief of the Division of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, professor of medical oncology, and director of genitourinary clinical research at Fox Chase Cancer Center; ASCO Board of Directors member; Journal of Clinical Oncology Editorial Board member; Cancer Communications Committee Board liaison; Conquer Cancer Merit Award recipient at the 2008 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium; @ERPlimackMD on Twitter.
What led you to oncology?
EP: When I was in training, I found many of the medical subspecialties fascinating and exciting, but oncology seemed to have the most room to improve. At that time there were only limited chemotherapy agents. The biology of cancer was becoming better understood. I felt that a career in oncology would be filled with progress and discovery, and so far that has absolutely been the case. 
I’ll admit I was intimidated by how heavy and sad cancer can be for patients, but one of my mentors reminded me that alleviating suffering and caring for people with illness is one of the most important things we can do as doctors in any field, and that the opportunity to do this in the setting of oncology would be meaningful and rewarding. That has also proven to be true for me. I’m very grateful to be working in this field. 
What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?
EP: Fine art photography or graphic design! My daughter is really interested in data visualization and design, which is a fascinating area—one where there is some overlap with what I do now.
What’s the last book you read? What did you think of it?
EP: I am a fan of the long read more than books. I keep a list of articles that change the way I think. One of the most impactful for me was a piece by Arthur C. Brooks in The Atlantic, “Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think. Here’s how to make the most of it.” Though the title sounds depressing, the author explains that diversity of ideas requires diversity of thought across levels of experience and age. This has led me to think about how we value and support students, trainees, and junior faculty. Sometimes they’re the ones with the best ideas but their contributions can be overshadowed by the more highly valued and louder voices of the seasoned experts.
What app or website do you check most often?
EP: I love the professional dialogue that occurs on Twitter—especially now during COVID-19 where in-person interactions are limited, the ability to share ideas with international colleagues has been great. 
What hobbies do you enjoy?
EP: Planning adventures (travel) and—especially during the COVID era—cooking, dog walking, and porch sitting!
What is your personal motto?
EP: Gosh, it would be great to have one! I aspire to cultivate gratitude, curiosity, flexibility, and resilience.
What do you think oncology will look like 10 years from today?
EP: Totally different, in ways we can’t even imagine! I am confident that there will be more people living and thriving with cancer so we will need more care providers working in collaboration to serve all our patients regardless of their geographic location or resources. The science is going to expand exponentially and translating that into treatments that lead to meaningful improvements for patients will be an ongoing effort. 
What would you say to a young physician who is thinking about entering the field of oncology?
EP: Welcome! It’s a great job and a great field and a fantastic community of people united around a common goal. I think it’s the best field.

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