Sep 06, 2017
Medical director for Scripps Green Cancer Center; director of Graduate Medical Education and Hematology and Medical Oncology programs at Scripps Clinic; ASCO Board of Directors member
What led you to oncology?
MK: I started my professional career as a physicist. While in graduate school at UC Berkeley, I developed a keen interest in the mechanisms and underlying principles of why things are the way they are. This curiosity carried over to my medical training. I was definitely not interested in the surgical aspect of medicine, and I could not see myself focused on one organ system for the duration of my career. Cancer can have involvement of any organ system, and mechanisms of cell growth, metastasis, and development of treatment resistance fascinated me. For me, medical oncology was not only a logical choice, it was the only choice.
What’s the last book you read?
MK: Past ASCO president Dr. Daniel Hayes presented the Board members with a copy of Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s recent book, The Gene: An Intimate History. The book chronicles the quest of thousands of scientists who worked to decipher the human genome. Given my interest in understanding the mechanisms of disease, I became engrossed in this tale of discovery and how each person’s unique characteristics can be reduced to a sequence of proteins.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
MK: I’m definitely a foodie and enjoy wine tasting. While I’m not a chef, I can follow directions well, and know how to clean up! My wine palate leans toward California wines, although I have toured and tasted at wineries throughout the U.S., Europe, and Mexico. I currently have approximately 1,500 bottles of wine in my cellar—more than I can consume in my remaining lifetime. Maybe time to have friends by...
Do you have a personal motto?
MK: I have two that I try to live by. “Don’t stress over things you can’t control,” and, “Look at life through the windshield, not the rearview mirror.” Truthfully, I’m not always successful at following my inner voice, but I wake up every morning trying to follow these two guiding principles.
What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?
MK: I would absolutely work in or own a vineyard and make wine. Viniculture combines science, farming, hard work, and luck. Enology requires a knowledge of chemistry, a good palate, and the ability to endure. Winemakers are always willing to share their experiences, mentor those starting out, and are continually experimenting to improve their final product. Sounds a lot like medicine, right?
What changes do you envision for the field in the next 10 years?
MK: I have no idea! The pace of discovery, rapid evolution of technology, and increased understanding of the mechanisms which underlie individual cancers are creating improvements in survival, quality of life, and cure rates I wouldn’t have imagined 10 years ago. Finite resources, patient expectations, and political realities all create a tension which is equally difficult to predict. Cancer care 10 years from now will be more individualized, of higher quality, and less toxic for patients. Care will be more coordinated and team-based. Quality care will be extended to more of the world, improving global health.
What would you say to a young physician thinking about entering the field of oncology?
MK: There is no more exciting field in medicine than oncology. As with nearly every aspect of our professional environment, the best is yet to come. I cannot imagine a different career which would have afforded me more excitement, more opportunity for growth, or more satisfaction. I have made a significant difference in many patients’ lives. A physician entering the field of oncology today can expect no less.