Getting to know MD Anderson president Peter WT Pisters, M.D.

Peter WT Pisters, M.D., MD
Anderson’s
fifth full-time president, began his role Dec. 1,
with a renewed spirit of unity and excitement. Like each of us here,
Pisters feels a deep connection to MD
Anderson
, our mission and the patients we serve.

Pisters built his career here for 20 years as a cancer surgeon,
researcher, professor and administrator. He left in 2014 to oversee
the University Health Network, affiliated with the University of
Toronto, the largest hospital-based research program in Canada.

He began his presidency at MD Anderson
by attending New Employee Orientation, followed by rounding and
interacting with employees in all four mission areas of patient care,
research, education and prevention. Committed to learning everything
he can about MD Anderson, Pisters
continues to engage stakeholders at all levels and in all areas to
hear about our strengths and where we might improve.

We recently sat down with Pisters to learn a little more about him.
Here’s what he had to say.

What word best describes you?

Curious.

What prepared you for your role as MD
Anderson
’s president?

The most important preparation I had was the privilege of caring for
cancer patients as an MD Anderson faculty
member for 20 years. My understanding of frontline cancer-fighting
experience here at MD Anderson gives me
deep insight into our mission and culture. Also, I know that my
master’s degree in health care management and my experience as chief
executive officer at University Health Network in Toronto provided
solid academic training and chief executive leadership experience that
are absolutely essential for me to serve our organization as president.

As you’ve traveled around MD
Anderson
recently, what have you learned?

I am in the midst of an intensive and immersive process to connect
with and learn from everyone at MD
Anderson
. Among the extensive amount I have learned so far, I
am most impressed with our momentum and trajectory. There is a feeling
of hope, optimism, enthusiasm and energy that is like nothing I have
seen or experienced before!

What was your first job?

My first job was mowing lawns at age 14.

Why is being a life-long learner important to you?

I get intellectually stale if I’m not continually learning. That is
the main reason I’m continuously reading, and it explains my
motivation and drive to go back to school for more education.

You use a lot of sports references. What’s your sport of
choice? Did you play sports?

Baseball and college football! Of course I follow the Houston Astros
and with one of our kids at Ohio State University, I follow the
Buckeyes closely! Yes, I played baseball, hockey and soccer growing up
and coached our kids in a variety of sports.

What’s something you’ve learned from patients?

Humility and courage. This was so poignantly expressed in the
letters and cards that I’ve received from patients. When my return to
MD Anderson was announced, so many of
them reconnected with me to share updates on their personal cancer journeys.

How do you manage stress?

Through exercise and reading. I aim for exercise four times per week
and can include both aerobic and strength training. Running helps me
to disconnect into a different world and stimulate both my body and my
brain through podcasts and audiobooks.

Best or worst advice ever received?

Best advice: Before accepting an offer in New York, I was advised to
look at an assistant professor position at MD
Anderson
. My life changed forever after that.

What’s one thing you’d like others to know about you?

I lead with a strong moral compass and dedicate myself to personal
core values that include integrity, hard work and life-long learning.

What’s one thing you’d like others to know about MD Anderson?

Diversity is one of our biggest strengths. Just look at the amazing
photo that was taken of me with my orientation group at new employee orientation!

A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger,
MD Anderson’s quarterly publication
for employees, volunteers, retirees and their families.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by
calling 1-77-632-6789.