Meet Thomas G. Roberts, Jr., MD

Apr 26, 2016

Managing Member at Farallon Capital Management, LLC and Chair of the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Board of Directors and Executive Committee

AC: What led you to oncology prior to your career in finance?

TGR: As an intern at Massachusetts General Hospital, I was lucky enough to have Bruce A. Chabner, MD, FASCO, as one of my attending physicians. Dr. Chabner had been Director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Treatment from 1982-1995 and played a major role in the development of some of the most important cancer treatments. Later, I met Robert J. Mayer, MD, FASCO, during resident’s report. He encouraged me to apply for the oncology fellowship, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions in my life.

AC: What’s the last book you read?

TGR: With two young children I find myself reading a lot of Dr. Seuss, which I confess to enjoying as much as an adult as I did when my parents read the books to me. The “adult” book I am reading now is Simple Rules by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt.

AC: What hobbies do you enjoy?

TGR: These days most of my free time goes to my children. I enjoy jogging (which I find meditative) and tennis. At one point I played competitively and still enjoy an occasional game. At last year’s U.S. Open, I was fortunate enough to watch the Williams sisters play against each other from Billie Jean King’s box. As the father of two young daughters, I am thankful for pioneers like her who have advanced social justice.

AC: Do you have a personal motto?

TGR: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I love this quote, attributed to the anthropologist Margaret Mead, because it both compels me to act and provides confidence in knowing that small committed efforts can lead to big changes.

AC: What career could you see yourself in if you hadn’t become an oncologist?

TGR: I have already made one career transition from medical oncology to global investing. In my current role, I make investment decisions on a very large portfolio, allocating capital to opportunities that my partners and I believe offer the best risk-adjusted returns. If I had not gone into medicine or finance, I would have probably pursued a career in public policy or journalism.

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

TGR: We will see enhanced precision in the use of targeted therapies and an expansion and refinement in the use of immunotherapies. Doctors will apply big data analytics to help identify and validate subsets of patients most likely to benefit from various options. Innovation will still find reward, but I think it is highly unlikely that society will continue to pay escalating costs for treatments with only marginal benefit.

AC: What would you say to a young physician thinking about a career in oncology?

TGR: Oncology can be an extremely rewarding career, with terrific colleagues, important clinical challenges, and tremendous scientific “white space.” Oncology also offers the daily opportunity to have a direct influence on people’s lives. Offering compassionate care to people during crisis is a fulfilling part of the career that I miss. I have immense reverence for research, and I am committed to doing everything I can to promote the careers of young oncologists. I would also offer the same advice that someone gave to me: Follow your ideas.

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