Skip to Content

On Being an Oncologist

In this thoughtful and thought-provoking presentation hosted by Walter Baile, M.D., and Robert Buckman, M.D., Ph.D., actors On Being an OncologistWilliam Hurt and Megan Cole assume the personas of various doctors. Using dialogue gathered by physician focus groups, they sit before the camera as though they are two doctors having coffee at the end of a long day. Informally and anecdotally they share their feelings about the stress of caring for patients with life-threatening illness; the time pressures; the challenge of breaking bad news; the need to keep hope alive; the balancing of sympathy and empathy and keeping personal boundaries, as well as dealing with both the patient's and their own emotional reactions.

      On Being an Oncologist  (39:44)
             Workbook   (pdf - or view below)

William Hurt

William Hurt has built a career playing several reflective characters. In this program he plays a physician discussing what it means to be an oncologist, the personal aspects as far as the demands, the burdens, the rewards and emotional costs.

Hurt trained at Tufts University and New York's Juilliard School of Music and Drama. He has been nominated for four Academy Awards and received an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for "Kiss of the Spider Woman." His most recent nomination is for his supporting role in David Cronenberg's History of Violence, in which he received Best Supporting Actor rave reviews for the role from the Los Angeles Film Critics circle and the New York Film Critics Circle.

His early years were spent on the stage, summer stock, regional repertory and Off Broadway. He has appeared in more than 50 productions, such as Henry V, 5th of July, Uncle Vanya, Hamlet, Richard ll, Hurlybury (nominated for a Tony), My Life (Obie Award for Best Actor), A Midsummer's Night's Dream and Good. He has also been involved in radio, where he read Paul Theroux's The Grand Railway Bazaar, for the BBC Radio Four and Shipping News by Annie Proux. He has also recorded The Polar Express, The Sun Also Rises and The Boy Who Drew Cats. He has narrated several documentaries, including Searching for America: The Odyssey of John Dos Passos, To Speak the Unspeakable (Elie Wiesel), directed and produced by Pierre Marmiesse and Einstein-How I See the World. Hurt was awarded the first Spencer Tracy Award from UCLA in 1988.

Megan Cole

Megan Cole has had a long acting career on the professional stage, and in recent years has also guest-starred on various popular television shows, including "Seinfeld," "ER," "Star Trek," "The Practice," "Judging Amy" and numerous others.

Cole originated the leading role in Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama WIT in 1995, for which she won the L.A. Drama Critics' Circle Award.

She also tours with "The Wisdom of WIT," her solo version of the play. Recent venues have included Johns Hopkins University, Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Georgetown University, National Rehabilitation Hospital, University of Rochester (NY) and Oregon Health and Science University, among many others.

Cole is artist-in-residence at The University of Texas-Houston, where she conducts a series of workshops on empathic physician/patient communication, as well as classes in literature and medicine. In addition, Cole gives numerous public presentations on the human face of medicine for healthcare and end-of-life care organizations across the country.

Free CME Credit Available

Certain material on this site is available for Continuing Medical Education Credit. To obtain credit you must use the “Earn Free CME Credit Online” link on the left.

Risk Management Education (RME) Credit Available

Certain material on this site is available for Risk Management Education Credit for physicians enrolled in the The University of Texas Professional Liability Insurance Plan only. To obtain credit you must use the “Earn Free Risk Management Credit Online” link on the left.  RME is only available to those who have UT Professional Liability Insurance.

I*CARE on iTunes U

How to download I*CARE Videos (pdf)

Anyone wishing a copy of the videos may download or subscribe to the videos at
I*CARE at MD Anderson on iTunes U.

Note: You must have iTunes software (a free download from Apple) installed to launch this link. (Page will open in a new browser window. MD Anderson does not endorse external sites.)


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center