Photo by Cameron Wittig
Douglas Yee of the University of Minnesota
Director of the Masonic Cancer Center / University of Minnesota
Top Doctors Designee:
2012, 2013, 2014
Why did you decide to go into medicine?
One of the things I like to do is problem solve. I also like science, and I also like talking to people. So combining those three things makes medicine a really good career.
What are the most common questions you hear from patients?
I only see breast cancer patients, and their questions are: How can I manage my risks given my diagnosis? How will the various therapies involved affect the quality of my life— chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation? One thing the field isn’t quite good at yet is being able to give women personalized therapies—to say, “Your tumor has an Achilles’ heel because we did the appropriate molecular testing, and we’re going to treat you with a drug that just attacks that part of the tumor—and that will be sufficient.”
What would you like to see accomplished in your field in the next 20 years?
The reason we’ve gotten better at treating breast cancer, the reason mortality rates go down every year, is because women are willing to participate in clinical trials and improve the standard of care. I would like to see more women be willing to participate in cancer research directly.
What’s been the biggest change in cancer research since you started?
The advocacy movement. When I started it was around the time where patient advocates and consumer advocates were really starting to say the outcomes were not acceptable. The advocates also started to hold the researchers accountable. Women who were cancer advocates are [now] on review panels and review grants; they have important input in the process. . . . So now there’s education there and they have a say in what’s happening in cancer research in general.