An Interview with Dr. Timothy M. Fan


Practitioners, says this veterinary oncologist, must be not only clinically competent but also caring and compassionate. "A good veterinarian is like a ball of wax-he or she can be shaped to the different circumstances and needs of the patient and pet owner."

Timothy M. Fan, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (internal medicine and oncology), is an assistant professor of oncology at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and a Veterinary Medicine Editorial Advisory Board member.

Who was your most memorable patient?

Emmett, a 15-year-old dog who was diagnosed with advanced multiple myeloma more than seven years ago and who I am still happily managing. Emmett is special to me because he exemplifies how some cancer-bearing patients, when treated appropriately, can live long, healthy, and fulfilling lives after cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Who inspired you most in your career?

During my internal medicine residency, I studied under Dr. Sharon Center, who professionally challenged all of her residents. This learning environment fostered my desire for continued training and education. As such, I have found academia a rewarding and stimulating career pursuit.

What part of your work do you enjoy most?

Sparking an interest in young clinicians to be active learners, particularly with clinically relevant research. In the field of oncology, one cannot choose to be ignorant about molecular pathways, which dictate disease outcomes and therapeutic responses.

Dr. Fan with Maizie, a 3-year-old Irish setter with an incompletely resected liposarcoma being treated with curative-intent radiation therapy to prevent local tumor regrowth.

What would you have liked to do if you hadn't become a veterinarian?

I love working with my hands and the feel and smell of finely sanded wood, so professional woodworking sounds like a great adventure. Making furniture certainly can be rewarding, but it can have its own inherent frustrations.

What would you advise new graduates?

Although veterinary school may seem like an eternity, realize that it is only an initial foundation that will allow you to grow as a professional. It will be your motivation and drive that will shape and guide your future professional and personal goals.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Some cats can be cool, but I am definitely a dog person. A dog's loyalty is something special, and I think dogs make unwavering lifelong companions.

What favorite musicians or songs would you include on your personal jukebox?

I am trapped in the 1980s when it comes to my music preference. I really enjoy the tunes of Daryl Hall and John Oates, with "Private Eyes," "Kiss on My List," and "Maneater" being my favorites. My wife says I am hopeless.

What book would you recommend?

Watchers by Dean Koontz. It is a fast-read that keeps your interest. The plot revolves around the struggles of a friendly Fido and a fetching heroine, plus a hero, a villain, and, of course, a happy ending.

What is your sci-fi prediction or veterinary medicine?

I would love to say that there will be a pill to cure everything, but that is not going to happen. Rather, through the study of gene microarray analysis, we will gain a greater understanding of the molecular underpinnings of diseases, allowing for prevention, earlier detection, and more effective treatments.

What was the best professional advice you ever received?

To pursue advanced graduate studies. Although the road to completing my PhD was long, I enjoyed the process and hope it will open doors for me in the future when trying to collaborate with other scientific investigators studying veterinary oncology.

What do you consider the greatest threat to the profession?

Academia is no longer considered an ivory tower; thus, the recruitment and retention of a talented faculty who will be responsible for shaping the next generation of veterinarians are in jeopardy. It is imperative for teaching institutions to establish a nurturing and rewarding environment to which future academicians will be attracted.

Which animal health needs are currently unmet?

Advances in disease prevention, diagnosis, and therapy cannot be fully realized if financial coverage of companion animals remains largely the burden of pet owners. Comprehensive medical coverage needs to be required for pets, so treatment is dictated by responsiveness to therapy, not by finances.

What makes a good veterinarian?

A good veterinarian is like a ball of wax—he or she can be shaped to the different circumstances and needs of the patient and pet owner. Like the four Cs of diamond shopping, a good veterinarian should have a nice blend of clinical competence, compassion, communication, and cooperation.

Recent Videos
Image Credit: © Przemyslaw Iciak -
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.