$200 M for Cancer Research to Renowned USC Oncologist

December 15, 2016

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. David Agus, a world-renowned oncologist and professor at USC whose most famous patient was Steve Jobs, speak in my HTE@USC class several weeks ago.

He also treated a relative of Larry Ellison, the ex-CEO and current CTO of Oracle Corp, for cancer. Eventually that led Ellison to donate a $200 million gift for a new, interdisciplinary cancer research and treatment institute at USC, christened The Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC.  This is the biggest, recent gift for cancer research. I first heard about it last year during the USC Commencement ceremony. I attended because my roommate was graduating. I was inspired by the words of President Nikias, Mr. Ellison, and the school valedictorian, Sulekha Ramayya.

President Nikias said “uncertainty in our future is just a fountain of infinite creativity” and that was a wonderful, positive approach to a scary feeling. He also recommended creating your own narrative in life and deciding what you want that story to be. Ramayya’s mentioned three things in her life that helped her succeed: “time, humility, and mentors.”

Being persistent and humble no matter what challenges or accomplishments you have is important. So are mentors – whether professional, personal or in-between, they provide you guidance and wisdom so look out for those relationships.

I was excited to hear that Mr. Ellison was our Commencement Speaker. During his speech, his honest sharing of personal experiences and down-to-earth personality belied his tough business reputation.  It reminded me that there are multiple facets to a person.

Hearing about his rise to success made me realize the importance of channeling whatever happens in life into positive motivation to do something impactful and to keep pushing ahead.

Lastly, Dr. Agus’ presentation this semester was both overwhelming and incredible. He believes it’s the job of a physician to not just treat cancer, but to change how we treat cancer.”

He is heading the Ellison Institute and the vision for it is to create a “cancer campus” where students, physicians, patients, scientists, and engineers can all come and live temporarily and collaborate in a shared atmosphere. Dr. Agus hopes to have patient rooms where students and physicians can observe the patient, treat them and find ways to improve current options.

He also reminded us that technology is advancing faster than we can keep up with culturally and socially and there is no healthcare political leadership.

Thus physicians and engineers must also be educators and advocates.

Dr. Agus also discussed ongoing research to make cancer chronic and manageable instead of fatal and approaches to whole-body cancer modeling for better treatment. His career advice was also on point: choose an area that will be hot in a few years but is not hot now and an area I am passionate about – inspiring words as I start the job hunt!

Published on December 15th, 2016

Last updated on August 29th, 2017