Dr. Ariela Noy ‘86 is a hematologist and medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, NY, who focuses on treating lymphoma patients and researching HIV-related lymphomas. After reading about her work, I finally arrived at her office on the morning of January 22 to begin my day-long Princeternship. Dr. Noy greeted me with enthusiasm, and quickly began updating me on her daily routine and current patients. Stories rolled off her tongue about patients’ diseases and platelet counts, but the stories remained centered on their personal experiences as patients, demonstrating how much she truly invests in her patients’ care and quality of life. Before even seeing any patients, Dr. Noy had shown me a new perspective on medicine by making it clear that treating a disease is different from treating a patient.
Soon after arriving, I followed Dr. Noy to a clinical research meeting with about twenty of her colleagues, where they presented and discussed prospective clinical trials and specific patient cases. The doctors challenged one another, asking presenters tough questions about the data they displayed, and tossing out ideas about how to improve trials or individual patient treatment. I was surprised by the exchange of ideas and debates that constituted the meetings. Observing their interactions made me realize that these meetings are truly what guide their daily work in research and medical care. Those who presented ideas welcomed the criticism: it seemed to be something they knew would only strengthen their abilities as doctors and researchers.
Dr. Noy and I left the meeting early, as she was working at the clinic that day, and had her first patient coming in at 12:15 pm. We arrived at the clinic, where she began responding to the dozens of e-mails she had received in the last few hours—messages from hospital administrators, fellow doctors, assistants, nurses. Her work ranged from analyzing patients’ PET scans to rearranging meeting times due to her busy schedule. She seemed to be working on hundreds of things at once, but kept me updated all along. At this point, it seemed to me that Dr. Noy’s job was both exciting and overwhelming, but she seemed constantly enthralled by her work.
For the rest of the day, I shadowed Dr. Noy as she interacted with patient after patient, quickly absorbing the background information she gave me about each before walking into his or her examination room door. The spectrum of patients she saw was wide: some had just been diagnosed with lymphoma, others were in the middle of their treatment, and still others had been in remission for years. Dr. Noy welcomed patients to her office, performed the necessary exams and procedures, and gave them time to tell her of any health complaints. She was consistently honest and frank with patients who asked her about their diagnosis. She expressed to me the importance of retaining a calm and relaxed persona while interacting with patients suffering from lymphoma, but said the truth was always shared openly. Although it was hard for her to share bad news, she did so whenever she had it. She was candid with patients who she felt had a cancer that was life threatening, emphasizing that making sure patients fully understand their condition is crucial.
After observing her with a few patients, I asked Dr. Noy if she ever feels overwhelmed by the bad news that seems to inevitably come up in her job. She responded, “Yes, but that’s why I come to work every morning.” I realized, after hearing her response, that the work she does is difficult and heart-breaking, but it’s importance extends beyond that. Her attitude towards her work is one I would like to have in my future career endeavors. The Princeternship made me confident that I would like to pursue a career, perhaps similar to Dr. Noy’s career in medicine, that challenges me daily and that rests on a commitment to help others. My experience at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was incredible and eye-opening, exposing me to a field of medicine in which I have always been interested.