Meet Tara O. Henderson, MD, MPH, FASCO

Nov 16, 2020

Professor of pediatrics, director of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Center, and interim chief of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at the University of Chicago; director of survivorship at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center; ASCO Board of Directors member; Adolescent and Young Adult Survivorship Work Group chair; Cancer Survivorship Committee Board liaison; @doctortara on Twittter.
What led you to oncology?
TH: As a high school junior, I had the opportunity to spend a summer in a cancer research lab through a program in New Jersey called Partners in Science. This experience hooked me. I was open-minded to different oncology disciplines, but ultimately an experience as a third-year medical student inspired me to be a pediatric oncologist. During my inpatient pediatrics rotation, I cared for a child (and her family) with acute promyelocytic leukemia and Down syndrome undergoing a stem cell transplant. I knew then what I wanted to devote my life to doing. 
What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?
TH: In college, I once considered the idea of being an architect. In response, my parents encouraged me to focus my creative proclivities (I love painting and drawing) on science. As I have continued to learn throughout my life, my parents were right.
What’s the last book you read? What did you think of it?
TH: In July, I started as the interim chief of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at the University of Chicago, so I decided to read Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. Brown’s lessons on developing trust in relationships and bringing vulnerability to leadership has really been important to me as I have started my new job. 
What app or website do you check most often?
TH: I look at the New York Times, Facebook, and Twitter. I use Facebook to connect with friends scattered around the country. Twitter is really a great tool to connect with my oncology colleagues across the country and world.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
TH: I spend most of my free time trying to stay in shape and watching my children’s sporting events. I enjoy shopping in unique boutiques and antique shops. I hope I’ll eventually find time to draw and paint. Former President George W. Bush, who I met during my time as a Presidential Leadership Scholar, inspired me to pick up the brush again.
What is your personal motto?
TH: Be kind in your pursuit of excellence.
What do you think oncology will look like 10 years from today?
TH: Given all that is going on in science, the oncology workforce, and cancer care delivery, I think we are going to see oncology transformed. I think cancer treatment will be increasingly precision medicine-based, with even more focus on not just cure but the quality of cure both in terms of long-term morbidities and the financial burden on patients and families, with particular focus on underserved populations. Given the efforts I am seeing in ASCO, I am confident we will see more women and underrepresented minorities choosing oncology as a profession and making up more of the leadership of the field.
What would you say to a young physician who is thinking about entering the field of oncology?
TH: It is the most exciting and important field in medicine! Cancer is in many ways the biggest challenge in medicine, and the opportunities for doctors, from bench research to drug development to therapies to follow-on care to psycho-social work, are endless and vital.
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