In what part of town do you live?
I live in Devonwood in Pinecrest.
How long have you lived in this area?
I was born and raised in Miami. I was actually born at South Miami Hospital and grew up in Pinecrest. I’m a physician, so I moved around for medical school and residency, and we moved back in 2018.
Did you think that you would return to Miami?
I loved growing up in Miami, but I did not think I was going to move back here. I married a woman who grew up right outside of New York City and always thought that I would end up in that area. We came down here when we were looking at jobs after training and Melissa decided that she liked Miami. So – we ended up here.
What type medicine do you practice?
I’m a radiation oncologist. I specialize in throat cancers, head and neck cancers, and skin cancers. I work at the Miami Cancer Institute (MCI), which is part of Baptist Health.
Would you describe what a radiation oncologist does?
In radiation oncology, we use radiation to treat cancer, like a surgeon uses surgery, or a medical oncologist uses chemotherapy. Radiation is a localized treatment that goes where we target it. Generally, patients are treated daily over a five-to-seven-week period.
Are you in the hospital now?
Yes. I’m in my office, but the machines run during the day. If there’s a question or something to take a look at, I get called in.
What type of question might you get asked?
When people get radiation, the first step we do is a planning scan where we get them in the position that they are going to be treated. Once they start, we get them in that same position every day on the treatment machine. The therapists who operate the machines will get the patient’s position and then take pictures before each treatment to make sure that things are lined up.
Does the treatment hurt?
No. It’s painless like most radiation. Just like if you go out in the sun, you don’t realize that you’re tired or have a sunburn until the next day or that night. Most side effects don’t start until a week and a half after you start radiation.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy the relationships that I get to build with patients and that I get to follow them over the course of their treatment. I think it’s a privilege to be part of their journey. And, one of the reasons I like the field is we get to use a lot of different technologies.
What types of technology are changing the way you treat patients?
I would say two things. The first is that there are better techniques to reduce toxicity in patients getting treatment. At MCI, we use proton therapy as well as guided MRI radiation treatment. That has helped us reduce some of the side effects of treatment. The second is for my specific specialty. In throat cancer, more and more throat cancers are caused by the HPV virus. I strongly recommend that children get the HPV vaccine. And, now the vaccine has been made available for adults up to the age of 45, which is new. Historically throat cancers were related to smoking, but HPV-related tumors became one of the more common causes.
Do you do research at MCI?
Yes. We have studies open right now looking at decreasing the intensity of treatment for HPV related throat cancer, which I find exciting. We are also opening studies looking at the microbiome, basically the bacterial environment in your mouth, and how that is affected by treatment. Hopefully we will be able to learn how the bacterial environment effects patient side effects during treatment.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
My family keeps me busy whether it is just playing games or running errands like coming to LNB Grovestand for Rainbow Smoothies. I have three daughters. My oldest Harlow just turned eight and I have twins, Zoe and Sydney who are about to turn six.
What is it like coming to the drive through?
It is a lot of fun. I get quality time with the kids and they’re excited to get there. Once we get there, they can see the smoothies being made. And they like to stick their head out the window and talk to you. It’s become a nice weekend tradition.
What else are you getting when you come?
I am a huge fan of your guacamole. Since the pandemic, we grill most weekends and have dinner with my parents. I always bring the guacamole to put on my burger. I also get the turmeric concentrate, which I have started drinking most mornings. I’m a big fan. My wife thinks that it makes my breath smell a lot better after taking it. Curcumin is the active ingredient, and it’s actually been studied in oncology regarding reducing radiation side effects. Radiation works as an oxidant in some ways.
What other places have you guys been going out to?
We take out fish from Captains Tavern. We’ve been going there for decades. We’ll get take out from the Daily Bread. And, the kids are big fans of Power Pizza. They like plain cheese pizza and Harlow loves garlic bread. They make a high protein dough.
Where do you guys like to go for a special occasion?
We took a trip at the end of the summer and went to the Blue Ridge mountains in Georgia. It’s basically the distance that’s just doable to drive in one day. That was gorgeous. I’m holding out that maybe at some point in the near future we’ll try and take another trip. In the meantime, I just try to get the kids to go for a nice bike ride with me and Melissa.
What’s Miami’s best kept secret?
Biking to the Chinese Bridge or bike riding in the morning as the sun is rising.
What is a worthy splurge?
The Salty Donut is a worthy splurge. Also, there’s a store near Merrick park called Artigiano where I get my jackets and pants for work.
What community or philanthropic groups are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
I am involved with the Baptist Foundation as part of Miami Cancer Institute, which supports our research.
Is there a question you would like to ask us?
(NK) Could you make a turmeric mouthwash? We cause a lot of mucosal irritation in radiation oncology and there are some small studies regarding curcumin.
(A+W) We have never thought about it, but we are open to test any ideas and see how we can help.
Is there a challenge or words of advice that you might like to pose to the community?
If 10% or more of everything we ate was sourced locally, I think the world would be a better place.
Is there anything I should have asked that I have not?
My wife, Melissa, started a company called 305Chainsz (which has our kids’ initials in it). Melissa sprained her ankle terribly a couple of months ago and the kids were doing school from home, so she started making mask chains and created a business. She makes them for kids and parents. I wear one and they are very nice.