Meet the Board

Arti Hurria, MD, found her ‘perfect fit’ in geriatric oncology

Arti Hurria, MD, is professor of medical oncology, co-lead of the cancer control and population sciences, and director of the cancer and aging research program at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Hurria also serves as HemOnc Today’s geriatric oncology section editor.

One of her current research efforts focuses on the development of a model to predict the trajectory of changes in cognitive function in cancer survivors and guide the development of interventions to preserve the cognition and well-being of older survivors of breast cancer.

Question: What inspired you to go into hematology/ oncology ?

Answer: Both of my parents are physicians. My mom is a radiation oncologist. Watching her experience with taking care of patients with cancer was very inspiring to me and it laid the foundation for me to go into hematology/oncology.

Q: What is your greatest professional reward ?

A: The time I spend with patients. It is the most precious and most satisfying time of the week. It means so much to me to be present with my patients. The remainder of the week I spend doing research, but I do that research with the goal of helping patients that I see in clinic.

Q: What has been your biggest professional challenge ?

A: Working in the field of geriatric oncology, there is so much to be done right now. It is both a challenge and an opportunity to realize that it is such a great help to these patients if we are conducting high-quality, evidence-based research. But there is a lot to be done. We need to stand together to stimulate people’s interest both nationally and internationally to improve the overall care of adults with cancer.

Q: Whom do you consider to be your mentor?

A: I have had several mentors throughout my career. I have been so fortunate to have been mentored by such a variety of people. There are so many people who bring different skill sets that we might want to emulate. There may be one mentor in the field of geriatric oncology but then there may be another mentor in the field of medicine who talks about work–life balance. My mentors include my mom, because she taught me about the love of medicine and the sacredness of the opportunity to help patients. My husband has been an incredible friend and mentor to me. He is in academic medicine and he is very wise. He has always been a great ear for me and given me great advice. I have also had the incredible fortune of working with Harvey J. Cohen, MD, and Hyman Muss, MD. They have really fostered my career in geriatric oncology since the time that I was a fellow. Jimmie C. Holland, MD, was instrumental in the field of geriatric oncology but also guided me in the importance of having a family and making sure to make time for that. She was the one who encouraged me to have my first child at the time when I did, so I would say that she was a wonderful mentor in how to have a successful career, but also a successful family life. Clifford A. Hudis, MD, mentored me in the field of breast cancer research, and George J. Bosl, MD, in the development of a geriatric oncology program. I think mentorship is something that we need in every stage of our career, and I think it is something that evolves over time. I have been so fortunate to have had so many people who have mentored me.

Q: What is the biggest breakthrough that you have witnessed in your specialty during your career ?

A: For the past 10 years in geriatric oncology, we have developed the tools to understand an individual’s functional age in order to tailor the discussion regarding cancer treatment based on their functional age and not their chronological age. This is a true example of personalized medicine. Hand in hand with this is incorporating the biology of the tumor to tailor treatment recommendations. There have been so many examples now especially in the field of breast cancer where I work where we have been really able to be more precise about who would really benefit from certain cancer therapies.

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Q: What do you think will be the biggest breakthrough in your specialty within the next 10 years ?

A: I think that we are going to continue to develop this field of personalized medicine. There is a traditional way that people think about personalized medicine, which is primarily focused on tumor biology guiding tumor treatment. The other part of personalized medicine is really personalizing treatment based upon the individual and what their goals, their values and preferences are, and taking into account their functional age as we make a treatment decision. It is really the idea that medicine will become personalized not only for the tumor but also the individual.

Q: What is the best advice that you have ever received?

A: There are two very important pieces of advice that I have received. One is to be present. You can make the greatest contribution if you are sitting at the table and thinking about how you can be of service to the conversation at hand. The second is to be selfless to really look for ways to be helpful for other people. This not only helps to propel the progress in our field but it is also incredibly gratifying.

Q: What advice would you offer someone entering into your field ?

A: Geriatric oncology is the most incredible field. We all work incredibly hard, but the rewards are so much greater than the effort that we place. Love your patients as much as you can. Give them as much as you can with all of your heart. They are in a vulnerable place, and kindness and compassion goes such a long way. To have the opportunity to work with older patients and their families is very gratifying. Geriatric oncology is a beautiful field, and I really feel that there is nothing like it out there.

Q: If you hadn’t gone into the field of medicine, which career path would you have chosen ?

A: I grew up around doctors, so it was almost like I didn’t know anything else. I probably would have gone into a field where I would have the opportunity to talk with people and to provide comfort to them. It would be a field where I could get to know people on a very personal level, but I just don’t know exactly which field that would be. Perhaps I have found my perfect fit in the field of medicine.

Q: What do you do in your free time ?

A: I spend most of my free time with my family. I have a daughter who is 12 years old and is just incredible, and she is a real blessing in my life. Being Mom is my first job, and my professional career is my second job. I spend most of my free time with her and fostering all of the activities that a 12-year-old likes to do.

Q: What is the last good book that you have read ?

A: Going along with being a mom, we love Dr. Seuss. So, fitting in both with this and in my field of being a geriatric oncologist, there is a book by Dr. Seuss called You’re Only Old Once. It’s about the beauty and challenges of growing old and learning to embrace it. We love to read this book together, and it merges both professional and personal life.

Q: What is your favorite travel destination ?

A: Although I do love to see new things, I would say that most of the times we travel, it is someplace where we can relax as a family someplace that is warm and where my family and I can just really decompress and relax. It is really not about the place per se, but the ability to be present with my family and enjoy the time with them. It is more about the people around me and the ability to enjoy them.

Q: Which musical artist(s) and /or type of music are at the top of your playlist right now ?

A: This can be embarrassing to answer. I love dance music, hip hop and even rap! I have seen both Beyoncé and One Direction in concert in the past year. I have to admit that my daughter would not go with me because they were not “cool enough” for her, so I had to drag my husband along with me. I love the top 40 music and I will sing along as loud as possible.

Arti Hurria, MD, is professor of medical oncology, co-lead of the cancer control and population sciences, and director of the cancer and aging research program at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Hurria also serves as HemOnc Today’s geriatric oncology section editor.

One of her current research efforts focuses on the development of a model to predict the trajectory of changes in cognitive function in cancer survivors and guide the development of interventions to preserve the cognition and well-being of older survivors of breast cancer.

Question: What inspired you to go into hematology/ oncology ?

Answer: Both of my parents are physicians. My mom is a radiation oncologist. Watching her experience with taking care of patients with cancer was very inspiring to me and it laid the foundation for me to go into hematology/oncology.

Q: What is your greatest professional reward ?

A: The time I spend with patients. It is the most precious and most satisfying time of the week. It means so much to me to be present with my patients. The remainder of the week I spend doing research, but I do that research with the goal of helping patients that I see in clinic.

Q: What has been your biggest professional challenge ?

A: Working in the field of geriatric oncology, there is so much to be done right now. It is both a challenge and an opportunity to realize that it is such a great help to these patients if we are conducting high-quality, evidence-based research. But there is a lot to be done. We need to stand together to stimulate people’s interest both nationally and internationally to improve the overall care of adults with cancer.

Q: Whom do you consider to be your mentor?

A: I have had several mentors throughout my career. I have been so fortunate to have been mentored by such a variety of people. There are so many people who bring different skill sets that we might want to emulate. There may be one mentor in the field of geriatric oncology but then there may be another mentor in the field of medicine who talks about work–life balance. My mentors include my mom, because she taught me about the love of medicine and the sacredness of the opportunity to help patients. My husband has been an incredible friend and mentor to me. He is in academic medicine and he is very wise. He has always been a great ear for me and given me great advice. I have also had the incredible fortune of working with Harvey J. Cohen, MD, and Hyman Muss, MD. They have really fostered my career in geriatric oncology since the time that I was a fellow. Jimmie C. Holland, MD, was instrumental in the field of geriatric oncology but also guided me in the importance of having a family and making sure to make time for that. She was the one who encouraged me to have my first child at the time when I did, so I would say that she was a wonderful mentor in how to have a successful career, but also a successful family life. Clifford A. Hudis, MD, mentored me in the field of breast cancer research, and George J. Bosl, MD, in the development of a geriatric oncology program. I think mentorship is something that we need in every stage of our career, and I think it is something that evolves over time. I have been so fortunate to have had so many people who have mentored me.

Q: What is the biggest breakthrough that you have witnessed in your specialty during your career ?

A: For the past 10 years in geriatric oncology, we have developed the tools to understand an individual’s functional age in order to tailor the discussion regarding cancer treatment based on their functional age and not their chronological age. This is a true example of personalized medicine. Hand in hand with this is incorporating the biology of the tumor to tailor treatment recommendations. There have been so many examples now especially in the field of breast cancer where I work where we have been really able to be more precise about who would really benefit from certain cancer therapies.

#

Q: What do you think will be the biggest breakthrough in your specialty within the next 10 years ?

A: I think that we are going to continue to develop this field of personalized medicine. There is a traditional way that people think about personalized medicine, which is primarily focused on tumor biology guiding tumor treatment. The other part of personalized medicine is really personalizing treatment based upon the individual and what their goals, their values and preferences are, and taking into account their functional age as we make a treatment decision. It is really the idea that medicine will become personalized not only for the tumor but also the individual.

Q: What is the best advice that you have ever received?

A: There are two very important pieces of advice that I have received. One is to be present. You can make the greatest contribution if you are sitting at the table and thinking about how you can be of service to the conversation at hand. The second is to be selfless to really look for ways to be helpful for other people. This not only helps to propel the progress in our field but it is also incredibly gratifying.

Q: What advice would you offer someone entering into your field ?

A: Geriatric oncology is the most incredible field. We all work incredibly hard, but the rewards are so much greater than the effort that we place. Love your patients as much as you can. Give them as much as you can with all of your heart. They are in a vulnerable place, and kindness and compassion goes such a long way. To have the opportunity to work with older patients and their families is very gratifying. Geriatric oncology is a beautiful field, and I really feel that there is nothing like it out there.

Q: If you hadn’t gone into the field of medicine, which career path would you have chosen ?

A: I grew up around doctors, so it was almost like I didn’t know anything else. I probably would have gone into a field where I would have the opportunity to talk with people and to provide comfort to them. It would be a field where I could get to know people on a very personal level, but I just don’t know exactly which field that would be. Perhaps I have found my perfect fit in the field of medicine.

Q: What do you do in your free time ?

A: I spend most of my free time with my family. I have a daughter who is 12 years old and is just incredible, and she is a real blessing in my life. Being Mom is my first job, and my professional career is my second job. I spend most of my free time with her and fostering all of the activities that a 12-year-old likes to do.

Q: What is the last good book that you have read ?

A: Going along with being a mom, we love Dr. Seuss. So, fitting in both with this and in my field of being a geriatric oncologist, there is a book by Dr. Seuss called You’re Only Old Once. It’s about the beauty and challenges of growing old and learning to embrace it. We love to read this book together, and it merges both professional and personal life.

Q: What is your favorite travel destination ?

A: Although I do love to see new things, I would say that most of the times we travel, it is someplace where we can relax as a family someplace that is warm and where my family and I can just really decompress and relax. It is really not about the place per se, but the ability to be present with my family and enjoy the time with them. It is more about the people around me and the ability to enjoy them.

Q: Which musical artist(s) and /or type of music are at the top of your playlist right now ?

A: This can be embarrassing to answer. I love dance music, hip hop and even rap! I have seen both Beyoncé and One Direction in concert in the past year. I have to admit that my daughter would not go with me because they were not “cool enough” for her, so I had to drag my husband along with me. I love the top 40 music and I will sing along as loud as possible.