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Last Page: Meet Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP

Jan 04, 2011

January 2011: Welcome to Last Page, a new column designed to introduce you each quarter to one of ASCO’s many volunteers in nine simple questions.

AC: What led you to oncology?
Dr. Dizon: During my internal medicine rotation in the third year of medical school, I was assigned to a team at Strong Memorial Hospital, in Rochester, New York. My first patient was an older gentleman newly diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. I still remember taking his history, doing an exam, writing up all I could learn about AML, and presenting him on the day after his admission. I remember getting to know his wife and his adult kids—the oldest was just a few years older than me. Then he got very sick. One morning, about four days after his admission, my medical resident pulled me aside to tell me he had passed on that evening. Although he was critically ill, I never thought he would die.

In those few days, I experienced what it was to be a doctor: to learn about a fascinating illness and its treatments, place it in a human context, and then explore another person’s world through his experiences and those of his family. This experience solidified my desire to be an oncologist because I wanted to be able to help patients through a critical period in their life and make treatments more effective. I wanted to make a difference, and I felt oncology could help me do that.

AC: What’s the last book you read?
Dr. Dizon: I just finished Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris. It’s an interesting, funny, and sometimes disturbing take on human relations, cast in the animal kingdom.

AC: What’s your favorite website?
Dr. Dizon: I’m a bit of a liberal, so I love Talking Points Memo by Joshua Micah Marshall. I also love Huffington Post and check in regularly with ASCOconnection.org. They are all on my bookmarks bar on Safari.

AC: Who is the person you most admire?
Dr. Dizon: I most admire my mom. I lost my dad this year, and it’s been quite an amazing thing to see her recast herself as an independent person. She’s always been my motivation and my best friend. Beyond her, I am a big Hillary Clinton fan. I think she’s incredible.

AC: What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?
Dr. Dizon: Fashion designer—I could’ve been Thom Browne or Tom Ford.

AC: What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
Dr. Dizon: Working out, international travel, and photography.

AC: Do you have a personal motto?
Dr. Dizon: Carpe diem. I try to live by it every day.

AC: What is your fondest memory?
Dr. Dizon: The birth of my first child, Isabelle. My partner and I didn’t know what we would name her, until we saw her face. I still remember looking in to this gorgeous newborn baby girl’s eyes and just knowing, “This is Isabelle.”

AC: What would you say to a young physician thinking about entering the field of oncology?
Dr. Dizon: Oncology is about more than just being a good doctor. It’s about being a biologist, pharmacist, and ethicist. It’s about being honest with your patients without taking away hope. And it is the challenge of being close to your patients, while doing what you must to preserve your emotional well-being. Most of all, it is the privilege of being there for people at their most vulnerable, and appreciating the opportunity to share in their joys and sorrows on a daily basis.

Dr. Dizon is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. He is a member of ASCO’s Cancer Education Committee and Chair-Elect of the Integrated Technology Committee. Dr. Dizon is a recipient of a 2002 Career Development Award from the Conquer Cancer Foundation (formerly known as The ASCO Cancer Foundation®).

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