Why I Dedicate Every Day to Caring for the Youngest Cancer Patients

Get to know Dr. Rabi Hanna

Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in pediatric patients in the United States. It’s estimated that 1 in 285 kids will have cancer by the age of 20, and approximately 45 are diagnosed with cancer daily.

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The disease doesn’t spare any ethnic group, socioeconomic class or geographic region. The incidence of cancer among adolescents and young adults is increasing at a greater rate than any other age group except those over age 65.

“We’ve made great improvements due to research and collaborative efforts in treating different types of childhood cancers,” says Rabi Hanna, MD, Chairman of the Department of Hematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “But despite that, two out of three of childhood cancer survivors will have long-lasting chronic conditions as side effects from cancer therapies. More work still needs to be done.”

We sat down with Dr. Hanna to find out why he has dedicated his career to helping these young cancer patients.

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Q: What sparked your interest in medicine?

A: At age five, I was diagnosed with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, and I was able to witness firsthand how medical care was able to change my life. The experience inspired me to help people when they are sick and vulnerable by healing and helping them. I always say to my patients: Cure sometimes, treat often, care always.

Q: What about your desire to become a bone marrow transplant physician?

A: My aunt was diagnosed with high-risk acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in 1996 in Syria. She had to seek treatment abroad because therapy for this kind of cancer is not available there. moved from Syria to the U.S. to pursue further specialized advanced training. In Syria, this type of care, like oncology, was limited to very big cities. There is also a much greater availability of resources here, and I love the American approach to healthcare. It’s a team approach. Everyone is a healthcare provider — not just the physician. Medicine is the ultimate team sport where everyone plays a critical role.

Q: In your career so far, what are you most proud of?

A: I’m so pleased that at least two of my patients, who are now cancer survivors, are both in medical school to become pediatric oncologists. It is the ultimate reward when you’ve inspired someone to become a physician who could save lives of the future generation.

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Q: What are some things you enjoy doing outside of work?

A: Family is my priority, so I always try to do something fun with my four kids on the weekends. I also love sports, especially Duke University basketball. If I could do anything, I’d learn to play piano. I love music, but I don’t know how to play.