Musculoskeletal oncology fellow Adam Levin originally planned on a career in sports medicine, repairing torn ligaments and replacing joints. But while completing a medical residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, he spent a two-month rotation at Memorial Sloan Kettering and came to realize that surgical oncology offered more interest and excitement.
“The patient interactions are more in-depth, the technology is advancing more rapidly, and the complexity of therapy is way beyond anything else in orthopaedics,” Dr. Levin says. In 2010, he began a two-year fellowship at the Center.
A native of the New York area, Dr. Levin was well aware of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s “amazing” reputation, but he has nonetheless been impressed by the level of excellence that the musculoskeletal oncology program instills in its fellows. “The program constantly pushes me to realize that there’s more to get out of myself than I knew,” he observes. “The training here requires such expertise and understanding, both academically and surgically, that it’s impossible to graduate without the ability to perform at the highest levels.”
One reason for this, he explains, is the high number of surgeries each fellow performs. Another is a curriculum that offers continuous feedback from attending physicians and weekly conferences that involve wide-ranging discussions of individual cases that transcend orthopaedic oncology to include the full spectrum of medical specialties.
“For example, even though as surgeons we won’t be giving chemotherapy ourselves, we learn about and understand how it is given, the complications associated with certain agents, and how differences among chemotherapies can affect outcomes,” he says.
Dr. Levin remarks that the fellowship program director, orthopaedic surgeon Carol D. Morris, has been his primary mentor but that he receives ongoing guidance from all the attending physicians — within the orthopaedics service and beyond. “There’s a tremendous interplay between orthopaedics, pathology, radiology, and medical oncology,” he says. “We don’t hesitate to walk down the hall and review something with anyone to make certain we’re on the same page. It’s a much more collaborative environment than you would find in other institutions.”
In this final year of his fellowship, Dr. Levin is doing research on the potential of very tiny substances called nanoparticles to deliver chemotherapies to cancer that has spread to bone. He continues to be gratified by his immersion in surgical oncology and the opportunities that the Center provides. “The interaction with patients would be amazing enough, but the frontiers of what we know about the basics of life, and cancer, are expanding every day — and Memorial Sloan Kettering is where the most exciting work is being done. I love it.”