2023 Top Doctor: Azam Farooqui, M.D.

Editorial StaffMarch 1, 2023
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft

Hematology & Oncology

Med School/Year Graduated: Rush Medical College, 2014

Years in Practice: 4

As a blood doctor with specialized cancer training, do you primarily treat diseases like lymphoma and leukemia? 

Yes, I do treat hematologic malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma. And I also treat other hematologic conditions such as iron disorders, blood clotting and bleeding diseases, along with white blood cell and platelet abnormalities. In addition to this, I treat solid tumor cancers.

What treatment tools do modern hematologists have at their disposal beyond chemotherapy?

Lately, there has been a surge of oral anti-cancer drugs that target a specific enzyme or receptor that’s found on cancer cells. These are indicated in many of the blood cancers now, and they’re generally very well tolerated. There are exciting advancements with immunotherapy as well, with treatments such as checkpoint inhibitors and CAR T-cell therapy.

When would a patient be referred to you? What are some warning signs of blood disorders or diseases?

We see patients at all points in the spectrum of disease. Whether it be as early as blood cell abnormalities noted on routine labs without any symptoms, to patients who are more ill with a variety of complaints. Some warning signs include bleeding, unexplained bruising, recurrent infections, fatigue, weight loss or night sweats.

You’ve done medical advocacy in Washington, D.C. How does politics compare to medicine?

There are two similarities that stand out to me. One is that both involve a team-based approach to ensure that all stakeholders have their needs met. The other is how critical communication and understanding is, to make sure that intelligent and effective decisions are being made.

Your wife is also a physician – a gastroenterologist. Do you talk shop at home, or leave it all at the office? Do your fields overlap at all?

We met in medical school, and talking shop has become a norm! But we keep a separation so we can enjoy time at home with our daughter. We also share cases for advice, as there is some overlap with bleeding issues or certain gastrointestinal cancers. 

Has any TV show or movie accurately depicted your field?

I would say Scrubs did a good job at depicting medical training. As far as societal issues we face in medicine, I thought Dopesick shed accurate light on the opioid crisis. Regarding cancer specifically, I cannot recall any movies, but there is a musical album called Hospice by The Antlers that seems to capture the struggles of cancer well.

What are your hobbies and interests outside medicine?

I absolutely love music, which has always been a passion. I used to be in a band and play bass guitar. We love the MIM. It is definitely one of the coolest museums I’ve ever seen. I also love fitness and anything science fiction.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”

Architecture has always been something I’ve thought of for this question, as it mixes math, science and art in a very interesting way.