Gary Schiller, MD: Why I Chose Hematology
|Professor of Medicine
Division of Hematology/Oncology
University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine
Los Angeles, CA
Q: When was the moment you chose hematology?
A: I think that I knew that my future included hematology when I was 10 years old. I remember visiting my mom's 25-year-old cousin, to whom we were all very close, as she lay dying of Hodgkin disease. It must have been the pain and the demand of that intolerable situation that gave me insight into a worthwhile, noble life purpose. During medical school I enjoyed all of my rotations, but when it finally came time to make a decision, Internal Medicine - specifically hematology - seemed the best fit. The prospect of developing pathophysiologic models for blood diseases was energizing to me and promised life-long learning. A career in hematology, no doubt, has given as much or more in return for the level of my service. Remembering our patients - the ones we helped as well as the ones we couldn't - is the abiding strength of the field.
Q: Why do you think it is important for people to get involved in this field?
A: Hematology is an underrepresented subspecialty in Medicine and Pediatrics. There is an increasing need for specialists in both benign hematology and for those with expertise in the management of hematological malignancies.
Q: In your experience, what is the most difficult or challenging aspect of becoming a hematologist in the United States?
A: Hematology practice requires a good sense of what is going on in Basic Research, some understanding of the translational process from bench-to-bedside, and constant education.
Q: How do you feel advances in technology (recent or past) have helped you along the way, be it in your studies or in general practice?
A: The most obvious impact of bench-to-bedside has been in multiple myeloma, where new drugs have completely changed the treatment landscape. There have been dramatic and rapid changes in the management of this disease, as well as the prognosis for patients with multiple myeloma.
Q: What do you find to be most rewarding about a career in hematology research?
A: It has been fun to work with so many excellent sponsors on drug development, which is the practical component of medical research.
Q: Finally, what advice might you have for a younger person who will be pursuing a career in this field?
A: Bring your enthusiasm, interest, and dedication to the bedside so that patient care never becomes routine or stereotyped.