My journey to caring for Neuroendocrine and Carcinoid patients occurred late in my career, but started much earlier than I could have ever imagined. Having grown up in the suburbs of Maryland, I stayed on the east coast, going to college in Boston and medical school in New York. When I finished school, I thought I was going to be a regular internist following the usual track. But I met an extraordinary person that changed the course of my career.
A famous transplant surgeon offered me the opportunity to become a surgeon and develop a cell transplant program for diabetes. Sounded like an interesting opportunity, so I took a year off and helped develop the program. I then started my surgical training, but again took a detour, moving to the National Institutes of Health and training in clinical research in diabetes, imaging, and endocrinology. After I concluded my clinical training in New York, I had to find a job, but nothing seemed to fit my diverse training experience.
The chairman of surgery at Vanderbilt offered me another unique opportunity: to build a Neuroendocrine Center. Up until then, I had NO experience with NETs. But after training at the best clinic in the world at Uppsala University in Sweden under Dr. Kjell Oberg, I realized that all the things that had been a part of my training (surgery, endocrinology, pancreas, imaging), all fit very well in the care of patients with carcinoid and neuroendocrine.
When I returned to the United States, we worked hard to develop a multidisciplinary team to help these patients. I was blessed to work with great people, especially in the department of nuclear medicine where my colleagues Ron Walker and Jeff Clanton helped us develop the first use of 68Ga-PET/CT imaging for neuroendocrine tumors. Now, many centers have seen how much it helps patients and are using it.
Thanks to some great supporters, the Healing NET Foundation has been established to provide a real method to improve that care. As the Foundation's Chief Medical Advisor, and a Consultant, I am committed to help establish a physician's NETwork to educate and empower medical professionals who want to provide the best possible care for neuroendocrine patients. I look forward to helping those who are fighting this strange disease and continue to make progress so that people can live longer and happier with NETs.
Dr. Eric Liu