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Dr. Laura Baum Shares Why She’s a Pancreatic Cancer Physician/Scientist

November 19, 2021

As we honor Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month, what do you want our patients and families to pause and remember?

Pancreatic Cancer is a difficult journey for patients and families. I want patients and caregivers to pause and remember that it's hard, we know that, and you're doing your best, and it's good enough. You're an important person and your life is valuable, and you didn't deserve to get sick. Try to find some moments for meaningful time together as you cope with this diagnosis.

How do you collaborate with the Pancreatic Cancer team at Smilow to care for patients?

As a medical oncologist, I am part of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology group and the Center for GI Cancers, as well as the palliative care team, which offers interdisciplinary support for pancreas cancer patients. I am also part of Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy and Effectiveness Research (COPPER) Center, which is a research group at Yale studying cancer outcomes. I am fortunate to be surrounded by such an amazing group of clinicians and researchers, and constantly learn a lot from my colleagues.

Why is it so important to encourage younger and diverse groups to pursue a career in cancer research?

It's important because encouraging diversity not only brings in new ideas and perspectives but also brings in the best, smartest people who may have been overlooked. Also, as we know, people with different backgrounds have different values, perspectives, and priorities and this can help mold the vision and trajectory of how cancer research evolves over time. In cancer, we need innovation and innovative thinkers, both fast and slow, gradual, and disruptive. We need people willing to see the status quo and change it; people willing to think outside the box; people with a new vision. Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in oncology improves the field, the care of patients, and the research vision.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in cancer research?

A cancer research career is the opportunity to pursue a career of life-long learning. You should always be striving to grow, to learn, to improve. Everyone says: "Find your passion." I find this intimidating because I am passionate about many things. So, my advice is do everything with enthusiasm, drive, and dedication. The better you get at what you do, the more you will love it. Cancer research as a doctor allows you to treat patients while also seeing the big picture; to be inspired by patients to try to make their care better. Cancer care and research can be intense, both intensely meaningful and intensely hard, and that is why I love it: because my work matters. Keep this in mind when choosing a career: how do you want to spend your time and what do you want your legacy to be.

Submitted by Anne Doerr on November 19, 2021