Feb 26, 2018
Director of the UCSF Pancreas Center and leader of the Pancreas Cancer Program; professor of medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology at UCSF; past president of ASCO (2003-2004); ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation Board of Directors member
What led you to oncology?
MT: I was torn between gastroenterology and oncology. Then I figured out that gastroenterologists see a lot of functional bowel disease! No, seriously, I understood that patients with cancer have serious problems and they really need our help. I was also touched by a grateful patient I cared for as an intern. His disease was terminal; he was in renal failure from obstructed ureters and having seizures. I stabilized him. When he was alert the next day, he thanked me, saying that he knew his time was near but he was really grateful to me for getting him through the night and giving him a chance to attend his daughter’s wedding which was coming up the following week.
What’s the last book you read?
MT: Well, don’t judge me here. I belong to a book club and so I read whatever I am assigned. But we did just read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and I loved it. Beautifully written and a great antidote to the bad behavior we’ve been witnessing in government and big business lately.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
MT: Well, I’d like to say walking and piano, but my knee won’t let me do the former right now and we lost our home and my beautiful Steinway in the northern California fires in October. It’s been pretty sad. But I will replace it and get back at the keyboard. That’s a promise.
Do you have a personal motto?
MT: Yes. From Mother Teresa: “Just begin.” It is what you have to do when everything is overwhelming you.
What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?
MT: Well, I’d like to say interior design but I probably wouldn’t be very good at it since I wouldn’t be very patient with clients who didn’t share my vision! Probably a museum curator as I love art and history.
What changes do you envision for the field in the next 10 years?
MT: I think the amount of knowledge required to be a general oncologist is beginning to be—or is already—too broad to expect a community practitioner to know everything. I think that, even in community settings, Centers of Excellence around disease groups will emerge.
What would you say to a young physician thinking about entering the field of oncology?
MT: I would tell them that they will have the most rewarding career imaginable. Go for it!