Gary Kupfer, MD, is the section chief of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology at Yale Medicine and director of Yale Cancer Center’s Pediatric Hematology & Oncology Program. He cares for children, adolescents, and young adults with a variety of rare genetic blood disorders, including hemophilia and sickle cell anemia, as well as pediatric cancer.
“Helping children with these conditions is a long, emotional, intense, and ultimately satisfying journey,” he explains. “I try to reassure patients and families by telling them that we have very good therapies, and, in most cases, the outcomes are good. Bu,t I emphasize that every step of the way we are going to be with them. And not just the doctors—an entire team, which includes the parents, who are a big and very important part of that team.”
He believes that establishing that emotional connection with patients, as well as their families, is an extremely important part of being a doctor. “We try to make sure they know that from the very start, we're not going desert them. We're going to take the best care that we can of their kid. We’re going be with them for the entirety,” Dr. Kupfer says.
In addition to caring for patients, Dr. Kupfer is a professor of pediatrics and pathology at Yale School of Medicine, where he also runs the Kupfer Laboratory. He studies rare genetic blood disorders such as Fanconi anemia, which has been linked to genetic breast cancer syndrome. “So, by studying this rare blood disorder in which patients get bone marrow failure and leukemia,” he says, “we are now able to understand breast cancer—in all of its different forms—linked together by understanding the biology and biochemistry of DNA repair.”
To Dr. Kupfer, medicine is a way of life. “For me, I would never be able to put a shingle out and see patients only from nine to five,” he says. “I love the idea that I get to do all of these different things: I get to play in the laboratory. I get to be a teacher. I get, most importantly, to take care of patients, families, and their kids, seeing them through to wherever they’re going and establishing lifelong bonds with people in all these different arenas. Each of these individual pieces of my job are a privilege, and I can do all of them, sometimes, within one day.”
Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale Medicine, Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital