Dr. Howard McLeod on Chasing the Fun and the Power of Collaboration in Precision Medicine
Dr. Howard McLeod is Medical Director for Precision Medicine at The Geriatric Oncology Consortium, a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and has worked on research projects with some of the most notable institutions around the world, including FDA, NIH, and NCI.
We cover a lot of ground with Dr. McLeod in this podcast, including career advice, the advancement of precision medicine technology and the positive impact of COVID on telemedicine and clinical trials. Read the full summary and tune in to the audio below.
Dr. Howard McLeod believes that “chasing the fun” is what led him to and through a meaningful career. He observed the people working around him and followed in the footsteps of those who seemed to love their jobs. For instance, when he was in pharmacy school, he noticed that clinical pharmacists had more fun than regular pharmacists, so he got his PharmD. He then noticed that researchers had more fun than clinical pharmacists, so he went and did a clinical fellowship at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. This unconventional approach to career planning led him to a faculty position in Glasgow, Scotland, the oncology department at Washington University in St. Louis, the Institute for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy at the University of North Carolina, setting up a precision medicine program at the Moffitt Cancer Center and, ultimately to his current position as Medical Director for Precision Medicine at The Geriatric Oncology Consortium.
Dr. McLeod says, “If you can focus your energy on things that you love doing, the old cliche is, I've never worked a day in my life because I love what I'm doing.”
As an antique map collector, Dr. McLeod enjoys seeing how small details come together to create the big picture. For him, understanding how to put the pieces of precision medicine together to make it actionable in a community setting has been a puzzle he continues to be fascinated by.
“The idea of taking little bits of information and putting together the full picture, really was in the theme of my professional work, where can we take bits of the genome, bits of patient information, bits of other things, put it together and come up with a clear picture of how to help a person,” he says.
We asked Dr. McLeod how technology fits into that puzzle to impact cancer research as well as the clinical practice of oncology. He noted that there are several pieces to the advancement of precision medicine, including better patient access to clinical trials due to telemedicine and technology tools that can close the knowledge and communication gap.
When asked about how technology is impacting cancer research and the clinical practice of oncology, he replied that there is resistance to technology in medicine because people want assurances that a professional physician has covered all of the details, but he adds that that finding the right clinical partners who are willing to collaborate to improve it through trial and error will help make technology tools more acceptable in the precision medicine space. He says, “I just love the idea that precision medicine is becoming real, and that's the exciting thing about the current time, it's no longer someday, it's now.
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About Our Guest
Howard McLeod, PharmD
Medical Director, Precision Medicine at the Geriatric Oncology Consortium
Dr. Howard McLeod is an internationally recognized expert in precision medicine, having made novel contributions at the discovery, translation, implementation, and policy levels. He is the Medical Director for Precision Medicine at the Geriatric Oncology Consortium and a Professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of South Florida. Dr. McLeod chaired the NHGRI eMERGE network external scientific panel for the past decade and was a recent member of both the FDA committee on Clinical Pharmacology and the NIH Human Genome Advisory Council. Dr. McLeod has been recognized as a Fellow of both the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy and was recently ranked #1 USA/#2 World for Pharmacogenomics. He has also been an active Board Member and/or Founder for over a dozen privately held and publicly traded companies. Howard has published over 580 peer reviewed papers on pharmacogenomics, applied therapeutics, or clinical pharmacology and continues to work to advance innovative healthcare.