Dr. Andrew Bauer is Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Thyroid Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The son of a pediatrician and grandson of a general practitioner, Dr. Bauer was immersed in the medical field from an early age. He knew as a child that he wanted to improve the lives of others. Seeing his father serve in the US Army made him realize that he too “should do something important with my life,“ and his calling to the medical profession crystallized.
“We’re given an opportunity to make other people’s lives better. People choose different paths—you can be a fireman, teacher, it doesn’t matter—but all of us have an opportunity to do something. You just have to find what you want to do and try to make a difference.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Dr. Bauer enlisted in the Army, a decision that fortuitously influenced his medical specialty. It was during his residency, when he trained with the director of the Military Pediatric Endocrine Fellowship, that he noticed the military healthcare’s strong focus on adult thyroid disease. Dr. Bauer was inspired to pursue pediatric thyroid disease with similar attention and dedication. In 2013, after 29 years of service, he retired from the Army and joined the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Childhood cancer is an enormous challenge for every family, but physicians like Dr. Bauer are using science to continuously improve our knowledge and treatment techniques. In 2019, he and his team created the first pediatric thyroid cancer translational science research lab in the country under the leadership of Aime Franco, PhD. One of their major goals is to uncover unique biological features of the disease, which could help us better care for children. “Even in 2020, there is so much to learn and so much we can do within pediatric thyroidology,” Dr. Bauer says. “The molecular landscape is a great place to start.”
For families beginning their journeys, Dr. Bauer realizes receiving the diagnosis can be challenging and confusing. Because the majority of thyroid cancer patients are asymptomatic, they feel blindsided by the news. How is it possible to have cancer and not feel crummy? But this is the case for many thyroid cancer patients. He believes it’s his job as the doctor to be patient and have in-depth discussions with families, giving information in small steps. Physicians are not just caregivers, reflects Dr. Bauer, but educators, too.
Even though the road may not be easy, around 98% of pediatric thyroid patients have an excellent outcome. The goal is to achieve that outcome while reducing risks and complications. And thankfully, even for patients who do not respond well to traditional treatment, there are now excellent options. Medical therapies such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors and oncogene-specific targeted therapy are showing favorable early results when used with the right patient at the right time. In order to continue improving outcomes for all patients, Dr. Bauer stresses the need for regional, state, and national thyroid centers. “It really takes working together as a community to figure out how to improve care. It cannot be accomplished by one center in isolation.”
It is through education, collaboration, and innovation that Dr. Bauer finds hope for his field and the children he cares for. “I’m really honored and amazingly fortunate that I get to dedicate all of my time to caring for pediatric thyroid patients.” At the end of the day, he says, “the most rewarding thing is trying to make things better for other people.”
Watch Dr. Bauer’s Virtual Journal Club session with Dr. Ari Wassner on the article Differences in Thyroid Nodule Cytology and Malignancy Risk Between Children and Adults below: