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Career Profile: Internist

Career Profile: Internist

Elise Kohn, M.D., Internist and Medical Oncologist, Head, Molecular Signaling Section, Laboratory of Pathology, Chair, Gynecologic Oncology Faculty, Head, Medical Ovarian Cancer Clinic, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute (NCI), National

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I chose to become an internist because I have always been interested in medicine, and at an early age, decided I wanted to be a doctor.

In undergraduate school, I was exposed to research and loved it. I was a summer student at NCI the summer before medical school and the first summer during medical school. I had the science bug at that point. As a summer student, I worked with scientists and not clinicians. I was able to see the impact of science through their eyes. One of the then NCI fellows became an assistant professor at my medical school and I worked with him there. This confirmed my interest in the biology of cancer. I applied to NCI for my oncology training and the chance to get more exposure to science. When I got to the lab, a senior scientist, now emeritus, asked me how long I was staying. I told him, with a laugh, “as long as I am having fun or when I find out I cannot succeed.” Either I have blinders on, or all has gone reasonably well. I am a tenured section chief with no immediate signs of leaving. NCI is a great place.

My parents told me I could do whatever I tried and that I should not miss an opportunity for lack of trying. My teachers encouraged my love of science and medicine. My scientific and clinical mentors in medical school, at NCI, and in my scientific communities continue to support and encourage me. I especially thank Dr. Liotta, now my branch chief, friend, collaborator and peer.

Education, Specialized Training and Board Certification
• Bachelor of Science, Cell and Molecular Biology with High Honors, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
• Doctor of Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan
• Internship and Residency, Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Hospitals, Ann Arbor, Michigan
• Internal Medicine Certification, American Board of Internal Medicine
• Medical Oncology Fellowship, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
• Medical Oncology Certification, American Board of Internal Medicine

I am an internist with specialized training and board certification in medical oncology. To be a board certified oncologist requires internal medicine residency training and board certification followed by 3 years of additional specialized training and boards. Certification for internal medicine and its subspecialties is granted through the American Board of Internal Medicine. The American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research are the professional societies of medical oncologists.

My typical workday involves…

My typical workday includes major responsibilities in the clinic and the laboratory, which are to:

• Design, develop, and execute clinical trials
• Present clinical trials results
• Teach clinical fellows
• Laboratory research and oversight
• Attend and participate in various meetings
• Mentor

What I like best/least about my work…

What I like best about my work is that I think I can make a difference in the lives of people through my work. I like the fact that through teaching and mentoring, I can share my enthusiasm for what I do.

What I like least about my work is time spent in meetings that might be spent improving patient lives, scientific progress, or mentoring. I get impatient when I think I can use my time more productively, but I try not to let it get me down.

My career goals are…

My career goals are to have it said when I am long gone that I made a difference either for a patient, a colleague, or a peer. That in some way I helped make cancer a more survivable process with an improved quality, and hopefully also quantity, of life. And, that through all of this, I was a good mother and wife and friend.


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