Adrienne Phillips – CUP Fellow Spotlight

CUP Fellow Spotlight  

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?
I am an attending hematologist and oncologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. I conduct clinical research in leukemia and lymphoma, see patients in my clinical practice, and teach medical students and residents. I am a third generation physician and shadowed both of my parents at a very young age. I was also further inspired by my grandfather's vivid depictions of making house-calls during the Depression. As I got older, I excelled in science and math but in addition had a fundamental desire to understand the human experience and help patients coping with illness.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?
Oncology is challenging because although research has led to significant advancements, unfortunately, many of my patients ultimately pass away. No matter how many patients I lose, I get emotionally tied to each of them and their families and am affected personally. I remain grateful that I am able to care for my patients during a challenging times, and this keeps me inspired and humble.

What is your proudest achievement?
Probably receiving a career development award from the American Society of Hematology and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to research a rare type of blood cancer. I developed an interest in Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma during my internship after treating a few patients with this disease who did universally poorly. One or two cases turned into a publication of the largest database of this rare disease in the United States and now a program to study novel therapies and potential cures. I was advised along the way that I would not identify enough patients for my trials and applied for a number of grants unsuccessfully but I stuck with it, and in time, my persistence was rewarded. Academic medicine is challenging but allows me to see patients, teach and mentor students, conduct research, and travel- all of which are incredibly gratifying. Confronting and overcoming challenges along the way has opened the door for a number of opportunities.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
My mom. She is also a hematologist/oncologist and was my first role model professionally and personally. She has had a very successful career while simultaneously being an amazing mother, wife and friend and she has set the bar high for me.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In 10 years I hope to be leading clinical trials in the Caribbean or Africa that bring new drug therapies to underserved populations.

What is one thing you've learned from the CUP Fellows Program that you would pass along to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?
All of the sessions have been instructive but the first session on leadership styles was particularly useful. It allowed me to recognize my own style and how I can best work with others to create a leadership team. The biggest message from this session was learning how to be self-aware. We each have our own passions, strengths and weakness and it's important to recognize what yours are so you can work effectively with others, stay true to yourself and lead with impact.