Soma Sengupta, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, Harold C. Schott Endowed Chair of Molecular Therapeutics, Associate Director of the UC Brain Tumor Center
Q: What made you decide to pursue a career in medicine and why did you choose this specialty?
I grew up in England. My father was a physician. He worked overseas and as children, we traveled to Zambia in central Africa. I was really enamored with the work that he was doing to set up OB-GYN clinics in the bush areas of rural Zambia where very little was available. Sometimes he would take me out to see children and their mothers in the villages. I found that enormously fulfilling and rewarding.
Medicine has been in my family for a long time. My father’s father was the dean of Calcutta Medical School. He was a physician and anesthesiologist. On my mother’s side, my grandfather’s brother had been a surgeon at Pearl Harbor.
While I was at Cambridge, I came across some fantastic neuro- surgeons and I became really fascinated with the brain. I chose this specialty because when I was at school, one of my close friends died of a brain tumor. One of the things I promised her when she was dying was that I would find a way to someday help people like her to live longer.
Q: What are the most vital elements to becoming a great physician?
The ability to listen, persevere and have a lot of empathy. The smarts can be gained through perseverance and dedication to something. Also, learning that nothing is easy. I think the hardest thing for me was training to lose my first brain tumor patient. I still remember it. It was during the millennium. I was on call and my fiancé (now husband) went back to the U.S. (I was at Cambridge.) I was paged by one of the nursing staff at 11:30 at night on New Year’s Eve, telling me that there was this young man who was dying of a brain tumor. Both his parents had passed, and his family was busy celebrating the millennium, so they asked if I had time to talk to him. He was 25. I held his hand and we watched the ball drop in the U.S. He said, “I really wanted to be able to go see that,” and I said, “Well, we have, and we got to do it without all those crowds.” A few hours later, he passed. It’s at times like that you realize it’s very hard to keep everyone you want alive and that things are simply not fair.
Q: How has your training helped prepare you for this uniquely challenging year?
I’m also a trained neurologist, so I was on service in the hospital setting with residents for two weeks during the peak of the pandemic in Cincinnati. I wanted to keep my residents as safe as possible. I trained quite extensively in infectious diseases at Cambridge, and I took care of Ebola patients when they were air lifted out of the Congo, so I’m very familiar with how to handle myself in these situations. Luckily, we have scientific brilliance in many countries and medicine that’s willing to adapt and refashion itself.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Sengupta, call 513.418.2282. For more information on the UC Brain Tumor Center, visit go.uchealth.com/brain-tumor-center.