In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Cancer Act, Dr. Mitchell Clark shares his motivation for pursuing a career in cancer research:
What brought you to work in cancer research?
Having seen a family member go through a devastating cancer diagnosis, I saw how a lack of access to cutting edge research and novel therapies negatively impacted someone’s cancer journey. I wanted to be able to impact the lives of more women than just those I see in my clinical practice. Being involved in cancer research allows me to make an impact on women not just here at Yale, but around the world.
Where do you see the future of cancer research?
Our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that lead to cancer development are expanding every day. This will allow us to develop cancer prevention strategies that stop a cancer before it even happens.
What are some of the advances you have seen during your career?
Many gynecologic cancers have had very disappointing outcomes for decades, where survival was measured in many months, not many years. Through personalized medicine and understanding the unique characteristics of each woman’s cancer, we have been able to develop individualized treatments that have taken survival to a new level while reducing side effects and enhancing the quality of life of our patients.
Why is it so important to encourage younger and diverse groups to pursue a career in cancer research?
Cancer affects all of us, regardless of our background, socioeconomic status, and religion. Having a research team with a diverse range of experiences enhances our ability to ensure the research questions we are asking are relevant and important to our diverse population of patients we serve.
Advice that you would give to someone considering a career in cancer research?
Our patients’ strength and determination inspires me to go to work each day. Knowing that you are part of a team dedicated to improving the lives of these incredible women brings a sense of fulfillment not matched by any other career. Find a topic or specific area of research that you are truly passionate about or holds a personal significance so you can remain motivated and committed when you face obstacles in your career. You will not regret committing your life to improving the well-being of others.