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Meet Lillian L. Siu, MD

Oct 29, 2012

Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto; Cancer Care Ontario Research Chair, Experimental Therapeutics; Director of Phase I Program, Medical Oncologist, Princess Margaret Hospital; and ASCO Board of Directors member

AC: What led you to oncology?

Dr. Siu: My mother developed breast cancer when I was in my second year of medical school; she lived thereafter for 12 years with this illness. I accompanied her to the hospital for every visit throughout these 12 years—sometimes to receive good news and other times, bad news. Long before the end of my internal medicine training, I knew medical oncology was my calling.

AC: What’s the last book you read?

Dr. Siu: Passion Capital: The World’s Most Valuable Asset, by Paul Alofs. Paul is a good friend, and he is President of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. In his book, he describes ways to harness “passion capital”—the energy, drive, and tenacity we bring to our everyday undertakings—to lead
to success.

AC: What’s your favorite website?

Dr. Siu: The “Letters of Note” website (lettersofnote.com). It is a fascinating collection of letters, postcards, memos, and photographs by all kinds of people. My favorite is a 1957 postcard from a young schoolboy to a top rocket scientist at the Woomera Rocket Range in South Australia, with his proposed rocket ship blueprint.

AC: Who is the person you most admire?

Dr. Siu: My 90-year-old father, who trained as an electrical engineer long before the era of computers. I remember vividly, even though it happened years ago, that he bought an old CPU, took it apart completely, and rebuilt it all back from scratch. He has taught me the importance of being curious.

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

Dr. Siu: I would have been a pencil artist. Art class was one of my favorites in high school. During one of our art class open houses, a visitor really liked one of my sketches and paid me $60 to sketch a print of her favorite horse! It was a tough career choice to make between art and science.

AC: What hobbies do you enjoy?

Dr. Siu: I enjoy traveling to different corners of the world and seeing the day-to-day lives of people in various countries. At home, I enjoy watching cooking shows because I am so deficient in culinary skills that I have to cook vicariously through others.

AC: Do you have a personal motto?

Dr. Siu: “The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work,” by Mark Twain.

AC: What is your fondest memory?

Dr. Siu: My close interactions with many young oncologists from all over the world from over a dozen “Methods in Clinical Cancer Research” workshops during the past decade in Vail, Colorado, and in Flims, Switzerland.

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

Dr. Siu: Oncology is an intellectually and emotionally challenging but very stimulating and fulfilling field. Use your curiosity and creativity to their fullest capacity.

Read an online exclusive interview with one of Dr. Siu’s mentees, Philippe Bedard, MD, FRCPC, a 2012 recipient of a Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Career Development Award

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