Photo by Cameron Wittig
Yoav Messinger of Children's Hospitals and Clinics of MInnesota
Pediatric Hematology Oncology Specialist / Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Top Doctors Designee:
2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014
What are the most common questions or fears you hear from patients?
Why did this happen? One of the first things you have to do as soon as you meet the parents and the siblings and the patient is to eliminate any kind of guilty feelings [they have] by explaining what we know of the development of cancer—and what we don’t know. In pediatrics, cancer is not when you found it or how long it was there and whether or not you missed it, or the doctor missed it, or somebody missed it. That has nothing to do with it. And so with that it’s a little bit easier because you can say to the mother and father, “You didn’t miss anything.” And that reduces again the thought, this magical thought, that: I could have done something to help my kid sooner.
What would you tell a friend or relative to ask if they were seeking treatment in your field?
Go to a place and make sure you’re very, very comfortable with the people that you’re meeting. The second thing I would tell them is to understand that we think about their kids as our kids. Some doctors keep a distance, but in our profession we don’t do that. The way I look at these kids, or any kid that comes into my office, I look at this kid and I say, “If this was my grandchild, where would I want this kid to be?”
What does a good day look like for you?
There’s nothing better than being able to say to somebody, “I was worried about you, but you’re not going to be taken care of by me because you have no dangerous disease; you probably had a viral infection that caused these changes.” I cherish those days.
What’s the most important trait a pediatric oncologist needs to have?
The ability to listen and to perceive what the people around him are doing. And be very humble. Very, very humble. In this field you work with the most cherished things in the world: kids.