Joseph M. Flynn, DO ’96, MPH, FACP


August 28, 2017

Executive Director and Physician-in-Chief, Norton Cancer Institute, Prospect, Kentucky

[as told to David McKay Wilson]

Joseph M. Flynn, DO ’96, MPH, FACP“After finishing my undergraduate studies, I worked as a pharmaceutical representative while studying for my MBA. I’d been dissuaded from pursuing a career in medicine, but many of the physicians I would meet affirmed that medicine was the best job. Then I met a DO who explained his philosophy about holistic care—that it’s important to treat the disease, but there is so much more: the body, the mind, the spirit. . . . I’ve come to understand that you don’t pick oncology. It picks you. In 1991, my mother, who had chronic leukemia, went on a clinical trial of a new drug that later became the standard of treatment. Sadly, she died pretty quickly. These days, I’ve had many patients in hospice whom I’ve put on a novel compound; they go into remission, and are still slugging away years later, fully living life. It’s incredible what modern drugs are able to do, and do it safely. It’s never a good time to get cancer, but there has never been a better time, because of all of the discoveries. I tell my patients: ‘You don’t know what new treatment is right around the corner. You don’t know what the next discovery is going to be.’ . . . The discipline is changing fast, with extensive research underway. There are 60 articles a week published on breast cancer. And there are more than 100 cancers. So you have to read the studies, synthesize the data, put the findings into perspective, and figure out where and how to put it in practice. To do this work every day has great rewards. I don’t go to bed at night without being grateful for doing what I’m doing. I have a patient who just texted me: ‘You treated my mom and she is cured.’ I never lose sight of the fact that PCOM gave me this gift to be able to do this.”