Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Cancer Expert Dr. Dan Theodorescu

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Cedars-Sinai, Cancer Institute, Los Angeles, director
Dr. Dan Theodorescu, Director of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute

Meet Dr. Dan Theodorescu, researcher and urologic cancer specialist.

Dr. Theodorescu joined Cedars-Sinai earlier this year as the new director of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. Bringing with him decades of cancer leadership experience, he plans to grow the cancer program at Cedars-Sinai.

We sat down with Dr. Theodorescu to learn more about him and his mission for the cancer center.

What is your role at the cancer institute?

Dr. Dan Theodorescu: My role here is to provide the vision and strategy to move the cancer program at Cedars-Sinai forward.

The job has many facets: Think of it as part inventor, part engineer, part builder, part orchestra director, and big part cheerleader for Cedars-Sinai and the cancer center.

“If your passion is to help the sick, then I think medicine is the best job in the world.”

What are your long-term goals for the cancer institute?

DT: The goal is to position the cancer center here to be able to answer one fundamental question, which is: “How does the cancer center add to the national conversation in cancer?”

I want to provide an answer to that question. A clear and compelling answer to this question will go a long way to help drive the cancer center toward a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation, which is a top priority.

Why does NCI designation matter for patients at Cedars-Sinai?

DT: Having that designation means our center has been vigorously peer-reviewed and has been found to have qualities that make us one of the best in the country.

Those qualities translate to better care for our patients. NCI designation is really the most important validation we can get that confirms we are a top academic cancer center in basic, translational, population, and clinical research spaces.

What inspired you to pursue medicine?

DT: When I was young, I had an aunt who died from cancer.

I was always fascinated by what the disease was that made her suffer so much, and that prompted me to read about scientists and physicians who were doing cancer research.

I formulated this idea that I could be a doctor and do research and help people; eventually that led to me to medical school.

I originally planned to be a pediatric oncologist because I love children, but during my first day in an operating room, I saw a cardiac surgery and I said to myself, “This is way too cool. I have to do surgery.” Since I was always good with my hands, surgery seemed like the right fit for me.


Read: Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Neurosurgeon Keith Black


What’s your advice for someone thinking of pursuing medicine?

DT: My advice for any young person—and the advice I gave my 2 children—is follow your heart, see what your passion is, and pursue that passion.

Do the things that make you happy. If your passion is to help the sick, then I think medicine is the best job in the world. In what other job can you hear the words, “Dr. Theodorescu, thank you for saving our father’s life,” after doing a complicated surgical procedure?

What’s the best part of your job?

DT: That’s a tough question because I love so many aspects of my job.

I never thought of ranking them, but the top 3 things that I like about my job, in no particular order, are the opportunity to make scientific discoveries through research; touching a patient’s life as their physician; and as an administrator, helping my colleagues accomplish their dreams in cancer medicine.


Read: Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Urologist Jennifer Anger


You’ve been in LA for a couple months now. Do you have any favorite spots yet?

DT: I haven’t had much time to explore yet; we’re still getting settled in.

I’ve been to LA many times over the years, and it’s a great city with so many things to do. I’m looking forward to seeing more of it soon.

Since I’m a big car guy, I definitely want to visit the Petersen Museum to see their collection. Maybe if I get lucky, I’ll meet Jay Leno and get a personal tour of his garage.

What do you like to do in your free time?

DT: I really enjoy mountain biking, which I rediscovered living in Colorado over the last 8 years. We lived near a state park, so I rode there a lot, but I plan to take my bike down to the beach here.

My other hobbies are cars, planes, computers, and home automation. I guess pretty much anything with mechanical or electronic parts!

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