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Meet James Abbruzzese, MD, FACP

Sep 07, 2011

Chair of the Departmentof Gastrointestinal MedicalOncology at the University ofTexas M. D. Anderson CancerCenter and ASCO Board ofDirectors member

AC: What led you to oncology?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
I was influenced byone of my biology professors in collegewho gave a lecture on the originof cancer and the discovery of cancer-relatedoncogenes—and I was hooked.

AC: What’s the last book you read?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
I have a Kindleso I tend to read multiplebooks atthe sametime.

I just finished re-reading AtlasShrugged, by Ayn Rand. The two otherbooks I finished reading around thesame time are called The Bullpen Gospels:Major League Dreams of a MinorLeague Veteran, by Dirk Hayhurst, andShop Class as Soulcraft: An InquiryInto the Value of Work, by Matthew B.Crawford.

I tend to read Atlas Shrugged periodicallybecause it captures a lot of myown views about personal responsibilityfor one’s actions and career. Theother two books come at the questionof “the meaning of life” from differentangles, and they’re both excellent.

AC: What’s your favorite website?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
I’m a big fan of anywebsites that have to do with weather. Ienjoy meteorology, weather, hurricanetracking—all that stuff.

AC: Who is the person you mostadmire?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
Abraham Lincoln.He was essentially an individualwho was self-taughtand then succeeded, despitetremendous amounts ofskepticism about hispersonal abilities andtremendous criticismduring the Civil War.He was also a brilliantwriter and orator.

AC: What careercould you seeyourself in if youweren’t an oncologist?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
I’d probably be ameteorologist. My family and I havelived through some substantial meteorologicalevents over the past fewyears, including Hurricane Ike. We alsohave a small home on Galveston Island,Texas, that had a lot of flooding andhave experienced some substantialtropical storms in Houston.

AC: What hobbies do you enjoy?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
Running and fishing.I started running when I was an oncologyfellow in Boston. I run for relaxationand general health benefits—Idon’t pretend to be a long-distance–marathon kind of guy. Fishing wassomething I picked up when I was a kid,and now that I live near the Gulf CoastI can go fishing whenever I want.

AC: Do you have a personal motto?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
My personal mottoreally has to do with my practice inmedicine: “First, do no harm.” When Iam practicing medicine, I want to makesure I don’t make things worse forpatients. We’re trying to make thingsbetter for them.

AC: What is your fondest memory?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
The birth of my son,Jason.

AC: What would you say to a youngphysician thinking about enteringthe field of oncology?
Dr. Abbruzzese:
It allows one to practicea very meaningful kind of medicinethat has a tremendous impact onpatients. It offers the opportunity tostay engaged in the evolving excitementaround understanding cancer,how it works, how to prevent it, andhow to treat it more actively. It’s byfar the most interesting and impactfularea in medical practice.

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