Meet Maha Hussain, MD, FACP, FASCO

Oct 20, 2016

Genevieve Teuton Professor of Oncology; associate director for clinical science research at the Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; co-director of the Lurie Cancer Center Genitourinary Oncology Program; ASCO Board of Directors member; and ASCO Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee member

What led you to oncology?

MH: The major factor in my decision to become an oncologist was my interactions with and experience in caring for patients with cancer and interacting with clinical researchers during my training at Wayne State University, where I had firsthand experience with what patients and their families had to go through from the emotional and physical aspects of the diagnosis, treatment, and downstream effects. The emerging opportunities and potential for effective treatments in a variety of malignancies stemming from the exciting basic and clinical research that led to many effective treatments—including what I consider the “poster child” for success in solid tumors, which is the curative role of cisplatin-based therapy in metastatic testes cancer—was also very instrumental in attracting me to the specialty. I also have two uncles who were oncologists.

I am, first and foremost, a physician; the opportunity to care for and help patients with cancer and their families through the course of the disease and to contribute to the development of impactful therapies are things I very much value and am committed to.

What’s the last book you read?

MH: I am currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It’s a fascinating and very instructive true story about a historical event, with many lessons and insights that are still applicable today, and which provides lessons not only to doctors and researchers but also to society.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

MH: I enjoy listening to music, reading, photography, and travel. Two of my favorite summer destinations are the shores of Lake Michigan and the Mediterranean.

Do you have a personal motto?

MH: My motto is reflected by an old proverb, which says, “You can’t clap with one hand.” I firmly believe in building teams and that collaboration is critical for success and achieving goals. This is especially true in medicine and oncology.

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

MH: As a physician, I truly cannot think of any other field that I would have chosen.

What changes do you envision for the field in the next 10 years?

MH: While we are having great medical successes in a variety of malignancies, there is plenty to do at many levels for many cancers, which will be key issues for the next 10-plus years. I think we will see more cures, and many advanced cancers will become more chronic rather than imminently deadly. As people in general and patients are living longer, cancer will continue to be a major health care issue, and the improved longevity brings the need for enhancing survivorship at all domains. Treatment-related monetary costs and the standards for the regulatory process for drug approval demand more attention, and my forecast is that they will be addressed.

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

MH: I would say, “It will be the best choice you ever make—it has everything that led you to decide to be a doctor and to make a difference.”

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