Apr 13, 2018
Vice president for healthcare outcomes policy and professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute; ASCO Board of Directors member; chair of the Cancer Screening Working Group; member of the Journal of Clinical Oncology Editorial Board, Pathways Task Force, ASCO Research Pipeline Work Group, and Clinical Pathways Task Force.
What led you to oncology?
SE: In medical school, one of my first patients on the wards was a young woman who died after years with sideroblastic anemia and development of leukemia. I still have the letter her young husband sent me about her and her children after her death. I then had a very influential professor who led me to oncology. A gynecologic oncologist, he showed me that oncology combines science, technical medicine, and social medicine, and allows you to provide support and care to people over a long time, and one that is the most difficult for them in life. Many of my professors thought I’d be a psychiatrist. But I find that oncology combines the best of all these disciplines, and one that really gives meaning to us and to our patients.
What’s the last book you read?
SE: Actually, it was a biography of T.E. Lawrence, as in Lawrence of Arabia. Don’t know how I ended up with it. I’m currently reading Raptors: The Curious Nature of Diurnal Birds of Prey by Keith L. Bildstein. I serve on the Board of Directors of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, a world leading conservation organization based near Allentown, PA, where Dr. Bildstein is the director of conservation science. He writes exceptionally well and this book is intended to bring the science of conservation biology to the general reader. I recommend it highly.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
SE: My wife and I do a lot of bicycling. I’m okay. She was the World Masters Road Cycling Silver Medalist in 2008 (I won’t disclose her age group!). I also recently went back to classical singing. I sing in the Anglican choir in our local church, and in the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. I gave a recital of classical art songs in March in Buffalo. I drive my wife crazy with my practicing at home!
Do you have a personal motto?
SE: The Golden Rule—“Do unto others…”—I guess sums it up. That clearly is my feeling with patients—I want them to understand what’s going on as well as I do, and I want them to get treated the way I would. I try, though I am probably not always successful, to do so in all parts of my life.
What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?
SE: A pilot—but in the 1960s that wasn’t possible because I wear glasses. My mother wanted me to be an opera singer. I guess she saw the singing in me long before I did.
What changes do you envision for the field in the next 10 years?
SE: Oh my goodness, this is such an exciting time in oncology. The promise of science is coming true. It is amazing. The next 10 years will be great. Oncology won’t look the same in 25 or 50 years.
What would you say to a young physician thinking about entering the field of oncology?
SE: This is the best field in the world. Science, technical skills, social and personal impact. It can’t be beat. Medicine is the best profession in the world. It’s changed a lot, and will continue to change. But that’s okay, and good. Service to people through medicine will always be the highest calling.