Lawrence A. Solberg Jr., MD, PhD: Why I Chose Hematology
|Professor of Medicine, Department of Hematology/Oncology
Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL
Q: When was the moment you chose to be a hematologist?
I chose to become a hematologist in the third year of my internal medicine residency at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, when three streams of experience converged. First, there were the patients I had seen on my hematology rotation with such an extraordinary range of malignant and non-malignant disorders. Being able to treat patients with these challenging diseases was critically important not only to the patients but also to medicine at large. The great hematologists I encountered, for example Bob Kyle and Walter Bowie, were another major influence. Finally, the ease of access to materials for experimentation: blood and marrow. These seemed much easier to obtain than small parts of biopsies from deeper organs.
Q: Why do you think it is important for people to get involved in this field?
A: Fascinating range of diseases and conditions for which there are no other experts- opportunity to treat both malignant and non-malignant disorders. I also need to know several other fields - infectious disease, neurology, radiation therapy, etc.
Q: In your experience, what is the most difficult or challenging aspect of becoming a hematologist in the United States?
A: Carving out ability to see non-malignant hematology- enormous pressure to see malignant hematology and solid-tumors - by virtue of tumor volumes and reimbursement.
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: Discovery had been absolutely the main engine of improvement for treating patients with hematologic disorders: in my life-time landmarks include: use of cladribine in hairy cell leukemia; autologous stem cell transplantation in lymphoma and myeloma, imatininb in CML, rituximab and all such therapies- arrival of the imids- and of JAK2 inhibitors... and on and on. All new approaches to classifying, diagnosing, and treating disease comes from scientific discovery.
Q: What do you find to be most rewarding about a career in hematology?
A: Patients, colleagues, training fellows and medical students, intellectual stimulation, participation in science and publication.
Q: Finally, what advice might you have for a younger person who will be pursuing a career in this field?
A: Go to the best possible place you can go for training - find the best possible mentors - take advantage of any training offered by the American Society of Hematology!