A career of nearly forty years healing and fighting cancer is enough to earn accolades. But talk with Dr. Larry Gluck, medical director for the Cancer Institute of Greenville Health System since 2002, and you’ll quickly gather that his work is more than a job—it is an extension of himself: inquisitive, analytical, a farmer’s son, a Boy Scout turned Sherlock Holmes cancer detective.
From his research, Dr. Gluck knows change happens on a molecular level—that’s where the true healing lies. As this year’s recipient of the Healthcare Transformation Award, the doctor and researcher is proudly one of Greenville’s own.
How do you start your day? >> I’m awake by 5:30, eat breakfast at the hospital, and check in at the lab. On any given day, I’m seeing patients and showing people around the Life Center. But I always begin early—it’s important to me to have the quiet time in order to focus before things get going.
Your involvement with cancer treatment and research spans decades. When did you first feel called to the medical field, and to oncology in particular? >> I started in biochemistry. In medical school, I found all the disciplines to be interesting, and for a while I wondered if surgery was the way to go. But back in my days of medical school, left-handed people weren’t welcome in the operating room—it was considered a disruption. It was during residency where I moved to hematology and then oncology. During that time, a college student, who’d been sick all week, came into the office and said to me, “I think I have the flu,” but nothing came up on his exam. When I looked at his blood sample under a microscope, coupled with all the other data, I knew at once: he had leukemia. I call hematology the Sherlock Holmes of medicine. By being inquisitive and intuitive, you can figure out the mystery.
Cancer research and treatment is ever-changing. What innovations do you envision moving forward? >> Right now, there is a molecular revolution happening in medicine. This plays well with someone like myself who started in biochemistry. I enjoy the blend of clinic time and lab time. With these two united, I can see a patient on the floor, then go straight to the lab downstairs. It’s that whole Sherlock Holmes idea again. It used to be that when someone came in with a heart attack, we could locate the blockage, but nothing on a smaller scale. And what I call the molecular revolution will not solely be based on a physical exam. Now, it can go way below the level of a physical exam to what is an invisible universe. That’s taking medicine to a whole new vista.
“For more than a century, GHS has been committed to advancing the health and well-being of those we serve. Dr. Gluck exemplifies our vision through his remarkable leadership, wisdom, and commitment to our patients and our community.”—Dr. Spence Taylor, president, Greenville Health System
Where do you believe your drive to give your time and talent comes from? >> Actually, a couple things: One, I come from a long line of farmers. I truly think there is a work ethic and self-sufficiency that you grow up with, and then there is an inherited disposition. The other is simply that in the hometown where I grew up, there was and is a first-class prep school: Mercersburg Academy. I attended the boarding school as a “townie” on a scholarship. It was a first-class education that introduced me to teachers, scholars, and to a world of learning.
Philanthropy is certainly vital to providing the best healthcare options for anyone, especially those diagnosed with cancer. How do you encourage the community to give of their time and resources? >> Someone has to invite a person into the process long before there is even a notion of philanthropy. I say that you have to come in and kick the tires. And so I carve out time on Tuesdays and Fridays where I make myself available to show individuals or groups what we are doing. I invite them into the science, the experience. If that rings true with them, then they want to invest because it is personal.”
This article originally appeared in TOWN Magazine‘s November 2018 Giving Issue