Luqman Dad, MD: On a Global Mission to Expand Quality Cancer Care in Underserved Communities
Luqman Dad, MD, MBA, is dedicated to expanding outreach and global engagement in cancer care. When he expresses how critical that is, he can’t help but point back to his own family’s roots.
“My parents immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in the late 1970s looking for more opportunities and for a better life. They came to this country to change the trajectory of our family's existence by emphasizing education and working hard,” says Dr. Dad, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) and director of outreach and global engagement at the Department of Radiation Oncology.
“Their immigrant story is similar to many of the people and families we serve here who come from different, diverse backgrounds, people with life challenges and people who have often been historically neglected in terms of care. We have the chance to provide the latest advances in treatments that we have here at our fingertips.”
Local and global outreach and impact
Driven by his passion to provide better cancer care to people who have been historically neglected, Dr. Dad wants to transfer innovative radiation oncology and technical expertise to underserved communities across the globe.
As the new director of outreach and global engagement in radiation oncology, he is working with trainees, medical students, residents and fellows to enhance their participation and educational activities here and abroad. “We need to engage better in education, to teach our youth that global outreach and engagement is a career path in medicine; that this is an avenue where there's tremendous ability to scale for growth and to make it a prosperous future for not only the people that we serve in these underserved areas but also our home institution.”
Dr. Dad, who is also co-leading the head and neck oncology group at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), joined Columbia in January from the White Oak Cancer Center in his hometown of Silver Spring, MD. There, he served as medical director for the Center for Advanced Radiation Oncology and helped build a brand new, high-volume, state of the art radiation oncology program. As an affiliate partner of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center, Dr. Dad was also adjunct faculty at the Department of Radiation Oncology at University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Prior to medical school, Dr. Dad spent a year doing a Fulbright fellowship at Pakistan's Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer, which cemented his interest in oncology. He credits his medical school mentor, Lisa Kachnic, MD, chair of Columbia’s Department of Radiation Oncology, for introducing him to the field, describing it as a wonderful combination of research, technology and innovation.
Inclusive cancer care comes first
Dr. Dad, who is fluent in both Spanish and Urdu, also intends to focus his efforts at the HICCC in promoting inclusive cancer care, emphasizing the need for physicians to be “more culturally competent in our delivery of health care.”
“It’s about being empathetic to a person's diversity, and not only racial or ethnic diversity, but things like their job diversity, what they do for work on a daily basis, or diversity in their family background and life struggles that might be associated with that,” says Dr. Dad.
The common thread that motivates Dr. Dad in all his interest areas—from radiation oncology to community outreach and global engagement—are the patients.
“Every patient is different. Every patient’s story is different, and we have this tremendous ability to impact their lives,” says Dr. Dad. “There is nothing as rewarding than to see how grateful they are when we are able to help them.”