Medical Staff Pulse is
a Publication of the Chief of Staff
2 Minutes With ... Allan W. Silberman M.D. Ph.D.

Dr. Allan Silberman and his brother, Dr. Howard Silberman of USC, recently completed their second edition of the text, Principles and Practice of Surgical Oncology: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Difficult Problems. It was published in September 2009 by Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins and features the work of 40 Cedars-Sinai physicians.

You co-edited both editions of this book with your brother, Howard. What was it like working with him on the book? And have you ever worked on cases together?
It's a tremendous amount of work, but doing it with your brother makes it much more fun. I certainly couldn't do it by myself. We've done a few cases together over the years. We don't practice together, but we talk about cases all the time. Since he is my older brother, he insists that I call him the night before any of my cases so he can tell me what to do. Nothing ever changes. This book has brought us closer in many ways.

How does it feel to know that you're being read by many physicians?
This is a book that puts a lot of complicated data together in one place. There are chapters in this book that are unique, such as the transplantation chapter by Drs. Steven Colquhoun and Andrew Klein where transplantation as a treatment for malignancy and malignancy as a result of from transplantation are discussed. Another example would be Dr. Leon Morgenstern's chapter on the effects of radiation on the abdomen. It would be very difficult to find the information presented in these chapters in one consolidated source.

What drew you to your specialty?
Cancer is the last frontier in medicine; the answer to the cancer problem is really at the root of life. I originally went into General Surgery and then Surgical Oncology because it allowed you to operate all over the body, which made things more interesting and more fun. However, this type of practice has become quite unique. Today, most institutions looking to hire a surgeon are looking for someone "focused" in one area; for example, breast or melanoma or colon. They are not looking for a "generalist." A practice like ours where we treat multiple organs and diseases is becoming something of a dinosaur. However, that's the fun of it for me and the original appeal.

You have lots of sports memorabilia in your office. I see Boston and Philadelphia teams represented as well as Penn State. Do you have any connections to these places?
I grew up in a tiny row house in the Frankford/Northeast section of Philadelphia. I attended Penn State for my undergraduate years and went to Boston for graduate school, medical school and residency. I did my residency with two other Cedars-Sinai surgeons - Leo Gordon, M.D. and David Cossman, M.D. Both were ahead of me in the program and continue to treat me as their intern. Despite that, they have become close friends and colleagues. You can't live in either city and not become a sports junkie.

What's the most memorable thing a patient has ever said to you?
"Thank you" in one way or another. We follow our patients indefinitely and develop a close relationship with them. They are very appreciative and often will write a very kind note or letter. I have saved these over the years and often look back at them with fond memories.

Of all those experiences that you've shared, is there one that stands out?
Performing a major operation and having it be successful always stands out in my mind. However, receiving an endowed chair, particularly as a private doctor, has been the highlight of my career. The donor was Mr. Robert Gottlieb. I operated on him for gastric cancer. He previously had colon cancer and a lymphoma. Ironically, he died of cardiovascular disease and was disease-free from his three malignancies. Our research project involves the genetic analysis of patients with multiple primary malignancies. When I told Bob about our study, for which he was a candidate, he became very interested and supportive. Following his death, his wife, Suzanne, continued to support us and endowed a chair in surgical oncology to help us with not only our research effort, but also our fellowship program in surgical oncology.

What's at the top of your bucket list?
I want to go to the seventh game of a Yankees-Red Sox series and watch the Red Sox win.

If you weren't a doctor, what would you be?
I would probably have a pet shop, a plant shop and a book store next to each other. Pets, plants and books are better than any psychiatrist.

Dr. Silberman is an attending surgeon and the Robert J. and Suzanne Gottlieb Endowed Chair in Surgical Oncology. You can reach him at  Allan.Silberman@cshs.org.