For more than 35 years, Philip C. Hoffman, MD, has been a dedicated professor at the University of Chicago, directing the medical student programs in hematology/oncology at the Pritzker School of Medicine. He has been honored as one of the favorite faculty by the graduating medical students 25 times. He was one of the original masters of the Academy of Distinguished Medical Educators at Pritzker, and he was the inaugural senior faculty scholar of the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence.
Dr. Philip Hoffman
For his commitment to education, Dr. Hoffman will be honored with ASCO’s Excellence in Teaching Award, which recognizes individuals who have inspired and shaped trainees’ practice of cancer medicine.
“I realized long ago that I’ll never win a Nobel Prize—I’ve made peace with that,” Dr. Hoffman said. “I’m not a groundbreaking researcher; I don’t think anybody’s going to name a regimen after me. But I’ve managed to be honored multiple times by the graduating medical students and residents. Lots of fellows who have gone through our program are now out practicing, many of them in academic places all over the country.”
‘Courage in the Face of Technology’
When asked if his teaching strategies have evolved over the course of his tenure at the University of Chicago, Dr. Hoffman replied that he hasn’t felt the need to change from the classic blackboard and handout format. In fact, he doesn’t use PowerPoint slides during didactic lessons.
“I realize that some of my colleagues may think that I’m a bit of a throwback, but I usually make up a handout, and then I use the blackboard. I call on people, and I try to make [the class] somewhat interactive,” he said. “A few years ago, one of the medical students sent me an email saying he was going to give me an award for ‘Courage in the Face of Technology.’ I enjoy going up to the board and teaching that way.”
Leaving a Lasting Impression
Dr. Hoffman comes from a teaching pedigree; both of his parents were educators, and he acknowledges them as role models growing up. For Dr. Hoffman, teaching is practically second nature.
“One of the skills that I have, which I think has to be developed, is being able to sense if I’m connecting with the audience,” he said. “Am I getting feedback from them? Are their heads nodding, are their eyes open? It’s about knowing what level they’re at and pitching the presentation to that level.”
When asked what he was most proud of in his career, Dr. Hoffman recalled moments when his lessons clearly took hold.
“Much of my teaching of the hematology/oncology fellows is preceptor type,” Dr. Hoffman said. “As you might imagine, many of these conversations are difficult and stressful, because they’re often providing bad news. One of the most important aspects of the preceptor relationship is modeling the difficult conversations. Not infrequently, I’ll run into a former fellow at the ASCO Annual Meeting who will mention to me that they always use some phrase or some way of speech that I taught them in their conversations with patients. It always gives me a lift when I hear that.”
– Hilary Adams