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Assembled with Care
Winter 2015

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HMS

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Portrait of Nancy Tarbell
Dean for Academic and Clinical Affairs, HMS; The C. C. Wang Professor of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital; Head, Pediatric Radiation Oncology, Mass General

What attracted you to pediatric oncology?

The magical idea of curing cancer in children. I was ten years into this career path when the role of the pediatric oncologist changed to one that emphasized calibrating radiation therapy to reduce side effects without decreasing the cure rate. Now the focus is on survivorship and quality of life. The improved survival rates we now see are an outgrowth of our success with treatment, giving us the opportunity to focus on survivorship, in particular how to manage side effects of treatment.

Why did you become involved in faculty development?

I thought I could have a greater, though indirect, impact on patient care by serving as a mentor and a source of career guidance to the next generation of clinicians. I also became more involved in the recruitment and retention of faculty. I wanted to make sure there were support systems in place, whether those systems included centralized faculty development programs or hospital- or department-based programs.

Why is mentoring so important to you?

I’m giving back something that was given to me. I applied to medical school because a college friend urged me to do so. She saw something in me that I didn’t know was there. There was little mentoring when I went to medical school. Some teachers were inspirational but that was not the same as the way we view mentoring now.

How do you switch gears from Dean Tarbell to Dr. Tarbell?

I love that I still am able to take care of patients. The clinical work keeps me grounded, in tune with what the faculty are experiencing and how medicine is changing.

When I put on that white coat every Wednesday, I know that on that day I’m going to be a doctor. And I know how to do that. For me, clinical work remains rewarding.

Okay, the elephant in the room. How do you think women are faring in medicine?

Women are still expected to behave in ways different from those expected of men. Men can say things, which, if said by a woman, would be considered too aggressive. We all have gender stereotypes, men and women alike. They’re part of who we are, and they don’t change quickly.

It would be great to feel as though we could break down some of the challenges that remain for women, ones that are subtler and a little bit harder to get at. I would love to look back, and say that, actually, we don’t need to talk about gender anymore.

Image: John Soares

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Issue

Assembled with Care
Winter 2015

Topics

HMS

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