Surgical Oncologist Rides for His Patients

Timothy PawlikTim Pawlik, MD, MPH, PhD, is excited about his impending 50-mile ride in Pelotonia 17 despite having almost no time to prepare for it.

After all, the surgical oncologist and liver cancer expert did survive last year’s Pelotonia ride of the same distance, which took place only a couple of weeks after he arrived at The Ohio State University College of Medicine to become professor and chair of the Department of Surgery.

“We showed up in Columbus just before the event, I got a bike, took one 10-mile ride in preparation, and a week later my wife Megan and I rode 50 miles,” recalls Pawlik. A Massachusetts native, he was recruited to Ohio State from Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology and director of the Johns Hopkins Liver Tumor Center. “I’ve never been a cyclist, and I really didn’t train for it at all except for that 10-mile ride.

“And Megan and I loved it,” he adds. “It was incredibly inspiring to be out there among all of those people, to ride through the towns, to hear the high school bands, and to see so many people along the road. Many held up pictures of family members and loved ones who have had cancer and have benefited from the fundraising that has occurred through Pelotonia to help the OSUCCC – James conduct research and identify treatments.

“It was truly motivating—and I needed every ounce of motivation I could get, because I barely made it to the finish,” he laughs.

His Pelotonia 17 training regimen is as spare as last year’s.

“I hope to go out one time, maybe one 10-mile ride. My schedule is really busy, and most of my time away from work is spent with my family and going to our kids’ sporting events,” he explains. He and Megan have four children: Katie, 15; Molly, 13; Emma, 10; and Michael, 7. This year, instead of his wife, his daughter Katie will ride with him as members of the SUPER Friends peloton (riding group), which is part of the Team Buckeye superpeloton.

“Katie is quite athletic,” says Pawlik, who also holds a Master of Divinity Degree. “She attends Columbus School for Girls and does cross country and track. She’s in great shape. I’m going to use her as my inspiration this year.”

Despite his lack of biking aplomb, he believes riding in Pelotonia is worth the effort. “It’s an amazing event,” he says. “I was blown away last year by how well it’s organized, its extremely high production quality, the pre-event activities, the ride itself, the friendliness of the people, the professionalism of the organizers, and then the post-ride festivities. I’m looking forward to it.”

Another thing that struck him was the number of people wearing jerseys with the words “I ride for…” and the names of family members, friends and loved ones. On his jersey were the words “I ride for my patients.”

“That’s what it’s all about. For me, the fight against cancer is personal,” Pawlik says. “I’ve had a lot of cancer in my family, and like all caregivers at The James, I care deeply about my patients and want to participate in things that help us improve treatment.” A passing visitor wishes him good luck in his ride. He replies, “Thanks, I’ll need it.”

When the physician is reminded that Katie will be there to inspire him, he grins. “My wife didn’t leave me in the dust, but my daughter may!”

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