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.
Pallav K. Mehta, MD
Director of Integrative Oncology
Department of Hematology/Medical Oncology
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper
What was your first job?
I worked in a flower shop making floral arrangements at age 15.
Tell us something about you that people wouldn’t expect.
I love stand-up comedy in all varieties and have a routine that is about 20 minutes long so far filled with sometimes bizarre, sometimes vulgar, sometimes absurd observations on the world. One day I may get up the courage to perform it.
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
For regular trips I like Cape Cod (Outer Cape); my favorite place I’ve ever been is Bali; and I haven’t been yet but would love to visit the Galapagos Islands.
Tell us your favorite book, movie or song – and why.
Oh boy, this is too big a question as I adore movies and books and watch/read a lot of both. I have my top ten movie list and at the top is an Italian movie from 1986 called Cinema Paradiso that beautifully captures the essence of love and sacrifice while underscoring the idea that you can never go home again. It also is one of the most poignant movie endings of all time. My favorite book is even more difficult as it’s difficult to compare various genres in the same list, but recent ones include The Goldfinch (simply the most sumptuously written book I’ve ever read), A Monster Calls (a teen/YA book about letting go), and Martin Gilbert’s biography of Winston Churchill (I love WWII literature, specifically pertaining to commanders like Generals Patton/Bradley/ Macarthur, or world leaders like Churchill, FDR, Stalin, Hitler, etc.).
What inspired you to become a cancer specialist?
I love the idea of being captain of the ship during what is quite possibly the most vulnerable, life-altering, frightening time of a person’s life – a cancer diagnosis.
What is your essential patient care philosophy?
Make my patients feel like they can, without reservation, put their trust in me to take care of them, which is not just eliminating the cancer. When it comes to my approach to appointments, I am always cognizant of the delicate balance between explaining in a relatable way while making sure not to condescend. As English was not my first language, I believe that words, grammar, vernacular, cadence, pauses, etc., all play a vital role in patient visits, whether they last five minutes or two hours.
What do you hope your patients say about you to their family and friends?
He made me feel hopeful and I know I can trust him.
What three words best describe you?
Curious, compassionate, and confident (alliteration was purely coincidental…oops, there I go again).
Outside of your family and your work, what are your passions (pets, music, travel, history, etc.)?
Movies; baseball and baseball history; stand-up comedy; and fitness. But it is all hollow without my wife and kids.
If you could have dinner with any three persons living or deceased, who would they be and why?
Winston Churchill – a leader who used his gift of oratory to inspire and give hope to a nation and a people in despair and understood leadership is not always doing what’s popular; Richard Pryor – no one is better at using humor to deal with life; and Anne Frank – I would love to hear her story in person.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper is one of the region’s leading providers of innovative prevention, detection and treatment for women with breast cancer. Here, doctors like Dr. Mehta can provide their patients with access to a full range of cancer care including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, reconstructive/ plastic surgery, genetic counseling and testing, post-surgical rehabilitation and lymphedema prevention and treatment, as well as access to important clinical research trials. Behavioral medicine, complementary medicine therapies and other support services are also available to assist women and their families in coping with their cancer. Learn more by clicking here.