Meet Thomas A. Marsland, MD, FASCO

May 08, 2017

Medical oncologist at 21st Century Oncology, American Medical Association House of Delegates liaison to the Clinical Practice Committee, ASCO State Affiliate Council member, Conquer Cancer Foundation Finance Committee member, Conquer Cancer Foundation Board of Directors member

What led you to oncology?

TM: One of my very first clinical rotations as a medical student was with a hospital-based oncologist. From the very beginning I felt that this was a specialty that I would really enjoy. Even 40 years ago, it was clear that one could significantly impact patients’ lives in many ways. Although we had few treatment options, many patients benefited. In addition, I found great reward in helping patients deal with the stress and strains of living with a terminal illness. Clearly, this was the right choice for me and I believe time has proven it to be a good choice in light of all of the events that occurred over 40 years of practice.

What is the last book you read?

TM: As far as my reading interests, they generally trend towards the Tom Clancy thrillers. I also enjoy novels that provide an historical perspective. The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer are a perfect example. As far as pure history, Bill O’Reilly’s books are very enjoyable.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

TM: Over the years, my practice has been one of my main hobbies. I have enjoyed the management and business aspects of our practice. In addition, I have been actively involved in organized medicine at local, state, and national levels. Giving back is important. On a more recreational basis, I enjoy skiing and reading. Travel—especially when associated with gourmet foods and wines—is a lot of fun. We’ll almost always make an appointment to try and visit a local vineyard when we travel. Also, many of our vacations are cooking classes. We have taken classes in Boston, the Caribbean, Vietnam, and France. It is really important to have family and personal time in the high-stress world of a busy medical oncology practice.

Do you have a personal motto?

TM: “Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.” Gotta take the good with the bad.

What career could you see yourself in if you werent an oncologist?

TM: Being a chef would be a lot of fun. It is neat to put together ingredients and come up with something everyone enjoys. I rarely follow a recipe, often winging it. Every creation is unique and never to be duplicated. I use the same ingredients but never really measure amounts.

What changes do you envision for the field in the next 10 years, and what would you say to a young physician thinking about entering the field of oncology?

TM: Today there is no more exciting field than oncology. There is an explosion of great, highly effective drugs. I do remember back 40 years ago when maybe there were only about 10 agents we used with any regularity.

Briefly, I want to tell Paul’s story. Paul is a patient with a metastatic lung cancer whom I have been treating for 6 years. He has a driver mutation (EGFR) and with targeted treatments, he has led a symptom-free productive life for 6 years. In 1980, when I started my career, a patient like Paul would have been dead in 6 months, maybe a year at best. How do you beat that? So to young folks: get on board. We are going to have a great ride in the future.

People ask if I am going to retire. Why? I love oncology. It truly is a great profession.

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