Meet Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD, FASCO

Sep 20, 2019

Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD, FASCO

Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD, FASCO 

Co-director, Oncology Precision Medicine Program at Aurora Health Care; ASCO Board member; associate editor for Cancer.Net and JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics; member of the TAPUR Molecular Tumor Board and the Research Community Forum Site Qualifications Task Force; ASCOconnection.org blogger.

What led you to oncology?

MT: I determined I wanted to pursue an MD and PhD (to combine research with patient care) in high school while I was starting research in the molecular biology laboratory of Eric Wieben, PhD, at the Mayo Clinic. After college and while in medical school, I worked in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics with my mentor Richard Weinshilboum, MD. During that study of pharmacology and pharmacogenetics, I realized that drugs with low therapeutic index (such as chemotherapy) were the most critical to study and that pharmacogenetics could lead to improved therapies. It’s what we now call precision medicine.

What’s the last book you read?

MT: I am currently listening to The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, DPhil, via Audible. The historical review is interesting and the amazing storytelling from Dr. Mukherjee is humbling. He makes very complex topics understandable and relatable in a larger context to society and the human condition.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

MT: I used to love running (slowly and not long distances), but after three knee surgeries I haven’t gotten back to where I was. So, I’ve taken up biking for exercise and fun.

Do you have a personal motto?

MT: Be curious, be critical. (Shout out to Hendrikus Krouwer, MD, PhD, who shared this with me). I think many problems in medicine and society are from not thinking critically.

What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?

MT: I likely would be doing laboratory research—where I started way back in high school. However, there are a lot of very interesting changes since I started in the lab back then, including informatics. I’m thankful that Debra Patt, MD, MPH, MBA, FASCO, pulled me more into this world as an editor for the JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics (JCO CCI). I think understanding “big data” (however defined) and integrating systems biology and network analyses will help move the fields of oncology and medicine forward.

What changes do you envision for the field in the next 10 years?

MT: I am hopeful that physicians will take back some of the humanity that has been squeezed out of medicine by the commercialization, corporatization, and over-metricization of medicine.

What would you say to a young physician thinking about entering the field of oncology?

MT: Medicine is the implementation of science to help people. It is a great field. Oncology is a specialization within medicine that is advancing rapidly. Young physicians that find that interface of science, medicine, and dealing with important problems such as cancer should learn more about the field. Like all of medicine, there are many stressors and barriers, but most days we do good in helping people.


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