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From Physicist to Physician: A Q&A With Lewis Duncan, M.D., Texas Oncology–Longview

Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor?
I wanted to be a physicist. One day a physicist I worked with asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I was interested in human diseases, and the he said, “Well Lewis, you know what they call that? A doctor!”

What is your medical background and what drove you to specialize in cancer care?
Throughout medical school, medical oncology was just coming into its own, and there weren’t a lot of medical oncologists out there. As I got into that field more, I was attracted to all the change and developments happening.

What drove you to stay with one organization for so long?
Texas Oncology gives you the support you need so you don’t have to worry about running the practice, you just have to worry about seeing patients and studying medicine.

When it comes to cancer care, how do you think Texas Oncology most benefits patients and their families in the Longview community?
It’s hard on patients that have cancer to travel long distances for treatment. Having well-trained doctors and leading-edge services close to home is a win for patients and their families.

With so many years of service under your belt, how has the cancer care landscape changed over time?
When I first started, we had a limited arsenal of chemotherapy. Now, modern-day immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and gene therapy are evolving and coming into play. It’s amazing the changes that have occurred over the years.

In your opinion, what is the single most important breakthrough in cancer research to date, and how have you seen it change treatment?
Understanding the defects in DNA have enabled researches to target where the problem is and develop new treatments. We also understand the immune system better. For example, we learned about the gene involved in chronic leukemia and developed a drug that now allows patients to live long lives in remission.

What do you think the future of cancer treatment looks like?
At some point, we’ll cure cancer – not all at once, but one disease at a time. People will still live with chronic conditions, but it will be treatable for many years to keep patients in remission. We’ve started to see this hope in the recent years and we are getting a lot closer.

How would you describe the culture at Texas Oncology and what does that mean to your patients?
It’s very close-knit organization with unbelievable support across the network. You can always call on colleagues that specialize in different areas. The patients and staff at Texas Oncology–Longview are always upbeat and optimistic.

What has working with cancer patients taught you about resiliency in the human spirit?
People, given a chance, want to be resilient. They are very appreciative with any help they are given and want to go somewhere that is upbeat and everyone is smiling and having fun. There is no doom and gloom at Texas Oncology, there is hope.