Dr. Walter Stadler currently works at the University of Chicago Medical Center and is a member of the KCA’s Medical Steering Committee, which provides strategic guidance to the KCA on medical and patient education programs.
We spoke with Dr. Stadler about his work with the KCA and with patients.
How long have you been working with the KCA and what motivated you to get involved?
I have been involved with the KCA since almost the very beginning when Nick Vogelzang help found the organization. At that time, I was a young trainee and faculty member working with kidney cancer patients and on kidney cancer protocols. As my mentor, Nick introduced me to the organization.
I have always been impressed with what the KCA has been able to do for a relatively rare disease population. Even in the beginning – when there were essentially no therapies and the organization was run by a very small group – we were able to make an impact. To see the KCA grow, with relatively modest resources and administrative support, into a worldwide organization has been inspiring.
What prompted/inspired you to go into the medical field?
I was always fascinated by biology and the fundamental pathophysiology behind cancer. Understanding what makes a normal cell behave in a malignant manner was something that has always been intriguing from a science and biology perspective, and I’ve always had a strong desire to apply this science to improving cancer care.
What is meaningful about being a physician? How do your patients inspire you?
Like all of us, I wanted to make a real difference with real patients. I am inspired by the resilience, commitment and hope that patients and their loved ones show one another during some of the most difficult times in their lives. It is an honor to be able to engage with them and witness that commitment.
In addition, I think that the most fascinating thing that has happened during my career is the development of all the different treatments for kidney cancer. To see us move from just two very unsatisfying treatments (IL2 and interferon) at the start of my career to dozens of drugs and therapies has been incredibly rewarding.
What is your favorite travel destination and why?
My number one destination would be any place to ski. My wife and I met in Aspen, so I always look forward to the opportunity to go skiing. We also recently spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand, which is a beautiful and fascinating country.
What do you like to do in your free time?
One of my favorites hobbies is serving as a referee for youth soccer. It is a chance for me to get out and away from usual work – I love the kids and the sport. Plus, unlike real life, if someone misbehaves, I have two colored cards to inform them of what is expected.