Aug 24, 2016
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Erasmus University, the Netherlands; Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors at Erasmus Medical Center; Associate Editor for the Journal of Clinical Oncology; and ASCO Board of Directors Member
AC: What led you to oncology?
JV: During my internal medicine training in the early 80s, I became very interested in the early successes of chemotherapy in a limited number of diseases. However, a series of talks during my night shifts with one particular patient, who had totally refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma and to whom I could only lend an open ear, made me realize how important oncologists can be in the care of patients, and also at the end of life. This experience stimulated me to seek further training in medical oncology.
AC: What’s the last book you read?
JV: I recently finished The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker, and just started to read The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.
AC: What hobbies do you enjoy?
JV: Until recently, I had a private pilot license and used to enjoy flying myself. I also enjoy playing golf.
AC: Do you have a personal motto?
JV: I am afraid I do not have one. However, whenever important personal decisions need to be made, I always say, “Follow wherever your heart guides you.”
AC: What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?
JV: This is a very difficult question, since I can hardly imagine what other career I would have been able to pursue. When I was young, I dreamt of a career in music, but simply was not talented enough. I assume I might have gone into business administration if I had not become a doctor. My current job combines both medicine and business administration.
AC: What changes do you envision for the field in the next 10 years?
JV: Precision medicine will be getting the most attention, as will the challenges that accompany unaffordable, expensive new drugs.
AC: What would you say to a young physician thinking about entering the field of oncology?
JV: Follow wherever your heart guides you. It is most important that you feel emotionally attached to your interests.