Ja­maican on­col­o­gist leads can­cer re­search at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

AS­SIS­TANT PRO­FES­SOR of Surgery and Co-Di­rec­tor of the Peri­toneal Sur­face Malig­nancy Pro­gram at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity Dr Fabian John­ston de­cided to en­ter the field of medicine af­ter watch­ing sev­eral episodes of The Cosby Show.

As a black child liv­ing in the United States (US) in the 1980s, the im­age of a suc­cess­ful black fam­ily gave him some­thing to which he could aspire.

Hav­ing left Ja­maica at age two, along with his par­ents who mi­grated to the US, John­ston learnt quickly that any­thing was pos­si­ble for him if he was will­ing to work hard.

“My par­ents were the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple for me grow­ing up. I was very cog­nisant of the ef­fort they took to give my sib­lings and me a bet­ter life ... . Their ef­forts showed me that I didn’t have room for be­ing lack­adaisi­cal,” he told The Gleaner.

John­ston en­tered med­i­cal school with his heart set on be­ing a psy­chi­a­trist, but hav­ing done his surgery ro­ta­tions, he dis­cov­ered a new­found love for sur­gi­cal on­col­ogy.

“I am, es­sen­tially, a can­cer sur­geon. My job is to work in con­cert with other spe­cial­ist to pro­vide the best com­bined ther­a­pies for pa­tients with can­cers. I fo­cus on can­cers in the ab­domen, es­pe­cially the stom­ach, colon, and pan­creas. I re­move the can­cers to give pa­tients the best chance of liv­ing as long a life as pos­si­ble,” he said in ex­plain­ing his role as co-di­rec­tor of the Peri­toneal Sur­face Malig­nancy Pro­gram at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal.

My par­ents were the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple for me grow­ing up . ... Their ef­forts showed me that I didn’t have room for be­ing lack­adaisi­cal.

GREAT OP­POR­TU­NITY

Hav­ing be­gun his ca­reer as an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of surgery at The Med­i­cal Col­lege of Wis­con­sin, John­ston says he wel­comed the op­por­tu­nity to go to Johns Hop­kins as he saw the prospect of work­ing at one of the fore­most hos­pi­tals in the world as a bless­ing on many lev­els.

He also pointed out that the move pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to be closer to mem­bers of his ex­tended fam­ily.

“I would be able to utilise the tremen­dous re­sources of the in­sti­tu­tion to ex­pand my re­search. In ad­di­tion, I would be able to ex­pand the kinds of pa­tients with var­i­ous can­cers,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to treat­ing can­cer pa­tients and car­ry­ing out re­search, John­ston also has to ful­fil teach­ing du­ties as he serves as an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of surgery at the Johns Hop­kins School of Medicine.

He con­fessed that the big­gest chal­lenge for him is balanc­ing his work life with his fam­ily life but noted that hav­ing his three daugh­ters has forced him to im­prove this bal­ance.

In keep­ing with the tra­di­tion at Johns Hop­kins, the Ja­maican na­tive is deeply in­volved in re­search that seeks to in­cor­po­rate pa­tient-cen­tred in­ter­ven­tion mod­els to im­prove the util­i­sa­tion of pal­lia­tive care among pa­tients with gas­troin­testi­nal ma­lig­nan­cies.

Fabian John­ston

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