Pamela Hodul, MD, is an associate professor and faculty in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Department where she performs surgery primarily on patients with pancreatic cancers. She joined Moffitt in 2006. Her research is focused on outcomes research with respect to pancreatic cysts and pancreatic cancer. She has a special interest in addressing malnutrition in GI oncology patients.
Congratulations on winning Moffitt’s Dr. Charles C. Williams Physician of the Year Award! What was your reaction when you found out you had won the award? How did your family and friends react?
To be honest, I was all emotional and cried. It’s been a very moving and humbling experience. My family and friends were incredibly sweet and complimentary – they were less surprised by the recognition than I was.
What does it mean to you to be recognized as the recipient of the Dr. Charles C. Williams Physician of the Year Award?
The award is a very prestigious recognition that we all aspire to receive. I have to say though that the recognition goes definitely to the entire team and their joined effort and success. Most meaningful to me was reading the letters from the patients that were part of the nomination – the patients are everything to me.
What did you hope to achieve when you decided to become a physician?
I wanted to help others and connect to them. As a physician I have the incredible privilege to relate to patients and walk them through their cancer journey. I am very attached to my patients and often follow them for a long time. With pancreatic cancer I am dealing with patients who have a very grim prognosis with just 5-25% five-year survival rates. There are lots of hugs and tears, as for many this journey is a deadly one. We all rejoice with those who survive.
Were there any challenges that you had to overcome on your path to becoming a physician?
There definitely was a challenge in college when I struggled with chemistry and let that undermine my confidence. For a little while it knocked me off my pre-med path. For a while I focused on neuroscience. During that time I volunteered at the University of Michigan Medical Center and met an 11-year-old boy with leukemia. We watched a lot of movies together, eating butterfingers and popcorn. I have stayed in touch with his mom even after he passed away. That’s where I rediscovered my love for medicine and got back on the pre-med track.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from your patients?
The most important lesson I learned from my patients is that life is precious and humbling. My patients have also taught me to be brave.
What is the secret to your success?
I think it is the fact that I am relatable, not just to my patients but to everyone. I stop and talk to everyone- nurses, housekeepers, students and physicians. When you want to get something done, you need to talk to people and basically be like the mayor of a little town who relates to everyone across all disciplines.
What are your future plans? Do you have any passion projects?
I don’t think that far ahead - I live in short spurts, maybe because of the particular patient population I am working with.
As a physician leader what advice would you offer to others who want to follow that path?
Find your passion, patience and compassion. Those are the most important qualities of a leader.