Louis B. Rapkin, MD
Undergrad Institution; Degree and Major:
BA, BS in Political Science and Biology
1996 - University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Where and for how many years did you train AFTER medical school?
1996-1999 - General Pediatrics - Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston TX
1999-2002 - Pediatric Hematology Oncology - St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis TN
In practice since:
Pediatric Hematology Oncology, with clinical focus on extremely rare solid tumors of childhood (< 100 occurrences per year in the United States) as well as medical education. I started at Emory and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta immediately after completing fellowship and have been here without interruption. My career started as a general pediatric oncologist, gradually sub specializing to solid tumors, and finally to rare tumors. I have worked at 2 of the 3 Children's campuses, Scottish Rite and currently Egleston. I personally see about 50-60 new oncology patients a year. About 50% of my time is spent in clinical service.
As an educator, my roles are primarily in the medical school. I have been one of the Society Advisors since 2008 in the Harvey Society. I run the Foundations Hematology course in August each year. Finally I run the fourth year medical student electives within my division, Pediatric Hematology Oncology. I am informally involved in both pediatric residency and peds hem/onc fellowship training, but do not have specific titles. Teaching is a real pleasure and privilege, and I've been incredibly lucky to become as involved as I am.
How did you choose your specialty?
There has never been a doubt that I was going into pediatrics. All my life I have enjoyed working with children. At a personal level I find that taking care of patients who are not responsible for their medical condition is very important to me, thus working with “blameless” patients. I find that I have always been able to do more for children for that reason. And I get to play with kids all day.
What do you like MOST, and like LEAST, about your specialty?
Most: Despite respecting general pediatricians for their ability to sift through a hundred patients to find the one sick child, I have always been attracted to complex patients and multisystem disease. Pediatric oncology is a field in which every organ system is involved, allowing me to do many types of medicine, with a national cure rate of greater than 80%. In addition, I really like patient follow-up which oncology provides, unlike other intensive specialties like Pediatric ICU, and we are given more time in general with all of our patients. Lastly, I believe in the principles on palliative care, and believe that even if a patient is not going to survive, the family can benefit from the continued support of our specialty. It has been an amazingly fulfilling career, and I am simply grateful that I found my perfect fit.
Least: There is very little I dislike about my career. Whatever I dislike is certainly tolerable given the benefits I have listed above.
In your opinion, what attributes are important in anyone choosing this specialty?
You have to love your patients and their families, because this field does not lend itself to shift work. You need to be able to work with a variety of caregivers as a team, because these kids are not served by being a rugged individualist. You should enjoy learning about research, and ideally have a drive to contribute to research. And you should be able to recognize that you can still help patients (and their families) that you cannot save.
My family foremost. I enjoy exercising, reading inconsequential books, and buying any trendy electronic gizmo.