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Faculty Spotlight: Q&A with Oreofe Odejide, MD, MPH

  • Advances in Hematologic Malignancies banner Issue 7 Fall 2017
  • Advances in Hematologic Malignancies Issue 7, Fall 2017

    Why did you decide to work in oncology?
    I was drawn to oncology on a month-long oncology rotation during my intern year at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Scientifically, I was struck by the fact that there were many important and interesting questions in oncology that spanned health services, clinical, translational, and basic science research areas. I also found it particularly rewarding taking care of oncology patients and trying to make a positive difference for them. I believe oncology offers a unique opportunity to build strong relationships with patients, and to provide comprehensive care during perhaps the most difficult time of their lives.

    What is your area of clinical specialty and why? Tell us about the condition(s) you specialize in for clinical care.
    My area of clinical specialty is lymphoma. The lymphoid malignancies are very heterogeneous with respect to age of presentation, disease course, and potential for cure. This diversity is very interesting and provides constant opportunities for learning. Moreover, through the progress made with better therapeutic options, patients are living longer and more people are being cured of their lymphoma. It is gratifying taking care of my patients in the intense/acute phase, seeing some respond to treatment, and following them long-term as they attain and remain in remission.

    What are the main challenges in this area? How do you address these challenges with patients/families?
    While the heterogeneity of lymphomas makes them very fascinating, this characteristic can also make the diagnosis especially confusing for patients and their families. Providing clear communication, referring patients to trustworthy information sources, and connecting them with former patients with similar diagnoses are strategies I have used to address this issue. In addition, the varied management options can be difficult for patients. For instance, the management strategy of active observation for indolent lymphoma can provoke a lot of anxiety for patients and their families. This requires placing similar importance on expectant management as provision of chemotherapy, and providing empathetic reassurance that observation does not equal abandonment.

    Describe your research work/other areas of expertise. Why is this an area of interest for you?
    I conduct health services and outcomes research, with a focus on understanding and improving the experience and quality of care that patients with lymphoma and other hematologic cancers receive throughout their disease trajectory. While there have been substantial improvements in the quality of diagnostic and therapeutic care for patients with hematologic cancers, an area that has perhaps lagged behind is the quality of care patients receive near the end of life. My current research thus focuses on identifying the needs and preferences of patients during this phase and developing targeted interventions to improve the quality of care and patient experience.

    What are you most excited about in your area of expertise? What holds promise for patients?
    An important emerging therapy for patients with lymphoma is immunotherapy, particularly chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. Although response rates and cure rates for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma have improved with rituximab and multiagent chemotherapy, effective therapy for patients who have refractory or recurrent disease has long been an area of unmet need. I am thus excited about the substantial response rates that have been observed in clinical trials of CAR T-cell therapy in this hard-to-treat population, and I am very encouraged by the promise that this potentially holds for patients.

    What do you like to do when you're not caring for patients/doing research? What do you do for fun?
    I love cooking. I find it very relaxing, and it gives me the opportunity to spend time with family and friends over a delicious meal. I also enjoy singing, and I have been in choirs for most of my life.

    Learn more about Dr. Odejide