The other night, my brother received the Award of Hope for Leadership and Patient Care at the 19th Annual Award of Hope Ceremony at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
It was a wonderful night. My dad and an old friend discussed math problems, I caught up with family, and in a quiet corner, my niece worked on her biology homework.
Anyone who knows me knows how proud I am of my brother. He is a bit of a genius, who graduated, I continually point out graduated from Princeton, Yale, and Harvard. My geeky funny brother who wore flannel shirts over T- shirts, played D & D endlessly,and to this day still keeps up with computer games.
His teachers told my mother very early he was a distracted student, and despite his good grades later on, discouraged him from applying to the Ivies. This was when being South Asian was still an unknown quality. He is now an oncologist, an MD/PhD,married to a brilliant specialist in infectious disease ( who even as I write is most likely fielding a question about Ebola).
Shridar specializes in breast cancer, and I am going to reproduce part of the speech he gave, after thanking his clinical care team, as well as his students, post-docs, and family:
“Most importantly I want to thank the people who inspire me the most and from whom I ultimately learn the most: my patients and their families. Many people say being an oncologist must be a depressing occupation. I respond that No, on the contrary, it is a greatly inspiring field. Each day, I meet people who have to deal with outrageous fortune and circumstance: a cancer diagnosis that makes them suddenly confront their mortality, and leads them down paths, physical and emotional, never anticipated and that often feels beyond their control. And yet they and their family mostly deal with this with a grace that is hard to imagine, and is both humbling and inspiring. Though it is gratifying and comforting to see the results of successful treatments and outcomes, it is my failures that drive me. When someone has their cancer progress and they die despite our best treatments and the loving care of their family, I grieve; but then I feel it is our duty to understand why this happened, why this cancer did not respond and how can we do better in the next case. These questions are not easy to answer; though the goal is clear, the way is long and very difficult and we have much learn. These challenges are vast and can seem paralyzing. But it is our duty to not stand still, but to move forward, to learn more about these diseases, to learn from every failure and craft better treatments. I thank you all for your help in supporting our efforts to move forward.”