Jun 29, 2016
Geriatric oncologist at City of Hope, ASCO member since 2001, Board of Directors member, and Professional Development Committee Immediate Past Chair
AC: What led you to oncology?
AH: I grew up in a family of physicians, and both of my parents were doctors. My mom was a radiation oncologist, which drew me to want to care for patients with cancer. With oncology in particular, I was very drawn to the patient population: the idea of being with a patient throughout the trajectory of the disease, and the deep relationships that are forged really drew me to the field.
AC: What’s the last book you read?
AH: I have two answers for that. I love to read with my daughter, and one of her favorite books is You’re Only Old Once by Dr. Seuss, which celebrates the process of aging and the beauty associated with it. Reading this book with my daughter is both a personal joy as well as a professional joy as a geriatric oncologist. Another great book I just read was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and that was a wonderful book about women and professional development, encouraging women in any field to take a leadership role.
AC: What hobbies do you enjoy?
AH: I really like to work out. I’m not great at it, but I enjoy it! I go to the gym and work with a personal trainer who pushes me to try to take my fitness to the next level. Many of my other hobbies revolve around my daughter, so I have acquired an interest in whatever the latest thing is for her. Right now she is starting to learn how to play the guitar, so I’m listening to new music. She loves to bake, so I’m enjoying being in the kitchen with her.
AC: Do you have a personal motto?
AH: The African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” This proverb highlights the incredible strength in working together as a team. So much of our national work in geriatric oncology is team-based. It has been such an incredible experience working together with my colleagues to contribute to this field, and I really believe that in oncology, the greatest advances we make are ones we make through team science. Team-based patient care and team-based research have always been something that I really enjoy and cherish.
AC: What career would you be in if you weren’t an oncologist?
AH: I think I could be happy in a career which involved being with people, hearing their stories, and helping them in any way I can. So I could see myself being a social worker, a caretaker, or even a manicurist or a hairdresser who listens to their clients. I think it would be a career where I could be of service; that seems to be where I get the most satisfaction. I also love to teach, and one of the most satisfying parts of my job is being a mentor and teaching the next generation, so I could see myself really enjoying being a teacher.
AC: What changes do you envision for the field in the next 10 years?
AH: We have a surge in geriatric oncology patients right now worldwide, and in the U.S. we’re going to see a 67% increase in cancer incidence in individuals age 65 and over from 2010 to 2030. At the same time, we’re facing a workforce shortage, which means that over the next 10 years, we will see a continued growth in multidisciplinary team-based care.
AC: What would you say to a young physician thinking about a career in oncology?
AH: This is the most incredible field of medicine to go into. There is no other opportunity where you can so deeply get to know an individual and their family during such a difficult time in their life. And through that partnership with the patient, you provide peace, guidance, and steadfast care. There’s nothing more satisfying than that. The experience that comes with holding a patient’s hand during a cancer diagnosis is one that I don’t think is paralleled anywhere else in medicine, and I would welcome young doctors into the field of oncology and into the field of geriatric oncology in particular. It’s a beautiful way to live one’s life, caring for such an incredible group of patients.