Perspectives: Thomas Rutherford, PhD, MD

FOR SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T KNOW YOU, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ROLE AND CONTRIBUTION TO HEALTH?

Well, I sort of came into medicine through a different route. I did a Masters in Physical Organic Chemistry and a PhD in Molecular Biology and then my father sort of pushed me a little bit to on into medicine when I had the opportunity. As a medical student, I was able to see a young lady who’s 28 years of age, she had a normal ovary and an abnormal ovary. One was cancer, I thought, oh, this is easy. Get a piece of the cancer and a piece of the normal ovary. At that time, the technology with Subtraction Hybridization would figure out what genes were involved and cure cancer. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but it allowed me the forefront to look into the future of understanding that I need to look at the biology and the genetics of this tumor to understand, what can we do to manipulate the tumor and hopefully cure it.

 

 

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED ON THE ROAD TO YOUR PRESENT CAREER?

Well, unfortunately, what we think works in science, doesn’t always work. And what we think we know, many times, we have to say that we were wrong. I’ve had several occasions where, what I thought I knew, I proved myself wrong and then proved myself wrong for the second time. It’s a little bit humbling, but I think you have to be able to adapt to the science and the many different perspectives, many people from outside looking in. What I looked at, I never saw, and they walked in and said, “ah, this is obvious. You should have seen this.” I think any time that you fear being wrong, you’re already stopped. You’re not going to find anything. I think you have to have a hunch. Play it. You can have an opinion, but it shouldn’t be set in stone. You should be willing to adapt to what the science tells you. You have to be able to stand up and say you’re wrong when you’re wrong.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG MEDICAL STUDENT OR YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Whatever you do in life, make sure you love it because if you don’t like or love what you’re doing, then you have a long journey ahead in life. I think what people don’t understand is, you’re taking on a responsibility. You’re saying you’re going to help a person and their family. And to do that, it doesn’t always happen 9 to 5. It’s many hours and mid-morning, weekends, holidays. You have to love what you’re doing. If you don’t, then it’s a job. If you approach your work with the attitude of looking forward to trying to figure something out, what’s the next step, why don’t I understand this, or how can I help somebody, it’s never a job.

 

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Perspectives: Donna Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH

Senior Associate Vice President, USF Health; Dean, College of Public Health

 
We’re changing the way we think about our training to really be future oriented, to anticipate the kind of things that have to happen around the world. "
USF Health: To envision and implement the future of health.

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