Behind the Stethoscope is a new series from the team at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, introducing you to the men and women at your side in your fight against cancer.
Anthony Dragun, MD
Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper
What was your first job?
At 16, I was a caddy at Torresdale-Frankford Country Club in Northeast Philadelphia. Carrying two golf bags in the summer heat was hard work, but the most difficult part of the job was finding all of the balls that were shanked into the woods!
Tell us something about you that people wouldn’t expect.
My wife and I are both trained and certified barbecue judges in the state of South Carolina. Yes, there is actually a certification process and barbecue judging school that you need to attend. No, this gives me no right to judge YOUR barbecue. Like a medical license, it doesn’t cross state lines!
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Right now, with three children, that would have to be Disney. Of course it is so magical to see the wonder in their eyes whenever we go to the Magic Kingdom. But really what makes Disney with kids so amazing is that it makes the return to work feel like a vacation!
Tell us your favorite book, movie or song – and why.
Overall, the J.R.R. Tolkien books are my favorites and I’ve re-read them to my children. The first three Peter Jackson movies were absolutely epic and the special effects were ground-breaking. They really changed people’s perspective on what is possible in movie-making, while still staying grounded in good and relatable characters: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
What inspired you to become a cancer specialist?
My mother went to medical school when I was 12 to eventually become a radiation oncologist, so I had early “exposure” to radiation! In college, I majored in what was at the time the emerging science of molecular biology, the understanding of which is grounded in virology (the study of viruses) and oncogenesis (the study of how normal cells are transformed into cancer cells). In medical school I was very open to other paths, but I kept returning to oncology, because I found the patients to be the most inspiring and I really enjoyed the team-based multimodality approach to care.
What is your essential patient care philosophy?
I treat each patient as an individual and treat nothing as “routine”. I have the heart of a teacher and give patients my absolute attention in their presence. I use a combination of education, empathy, and humor to give patients a sense of optimistic power over their diagnosis.
What do you hope your patients say about you to their family and friends?
That I took my time with them. That I held their hand. That they felt emotionally so much better after visiting with me than before. And that I didn’t make them wait!
What three words best describe you?
Warm, philosophical, and innovative.
Outside of your family and your work, what are your passions (pets, music, travel, history, etc.)?
I enjoy the process of creation and design, especially at home. My wife and I have always spent a lot of time renovating and entertaining in our home. I enjoy taking on projects, learning how to fix or make something myself, and especially savoring the end result.
If you could have dinner with any three persons living or deceased, who would they be and why?
Aristotle, the intellectual father of reason, logic, and reality; Mark Twain, the quintessential American humorist; and Keith Richards, the true creative genius behind the greatest rock band in history, the Rolling Stones.
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper takes cancer care in our region to a whole new level. Our partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, the nation’s number one cancer center, provides patients with access to MD Anderson’s proven treatment approach, specialized cancer expertise, more clinical trials for more cancers, collaboration by national and regional cancer specialists, and customized treatment plans from doctors like Dr. Dragun. Learn more by clicking here.