When Matthew Ellis was 10 years old, growing up in Kibworth Beauchamp, England, he told his religious studies teacher he wanted to be a doctor.
“I have no idea why,” says Ellis, MD, PhD, now professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and head of breast oncology at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. “I never considered doing anything else.”
Though he was a driven student who loved the sciences, especially biology, Ellis says he did not necessarily excel at the hands-on elements of laboratory work.
“I managed to electrocute myself studying whether vegetable oil could be used as a lubricant in engines,” he says. “I tripped all the circuit breakers in the physics lab.”
He also set off school fire alarms when a light filter he was using to watch the conversion of sucrose to glucose caught on fire. And then there was that trip to the hospital for stitches during his woodworking exam.
“I learned I was much better at thinking than actually doing lab experiments,” he says with a laugh. “Which is where I’ve ended up now. Others do the experiments, and I interpret the data. It’s much safer.”
Matthew Ellis, MD, PhD, and Rodrigo Goncalves, MD, postdoctoral research scholar, look at breast cancer samples. Goncalves is helping Ellis set up a clinical trial for young women with breast cancer at a public hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Matthew is an energetic guy who thinks outside the box and keeps at the cutting edge in breast cancer research,” says John Dipersio, MD, PhD, the Virginia E. and Sam J. Golman Professor of Medicine.