Ask Peter Argenta, M.D., how he decided to enter the field of gynecologic oncology, and he doesn’t skip a beat: “I tried not to go into it.”
On his first day of medical school at Duke University, he had to fill out a questionnaire about his professional interests. “I said the only things of question were ob-gyn and oncology. Here I am 15 years later as a gynecologic oncologist,” says Argenta, an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health.
The turning point came during his residency at the University of Pennsylvania. Like many interns, Argenta had tried to avoid a rotation in the oncology intensive care unit—a particularly tough assignment.
Now he’s helping people like Jeanne McGahee, who’s living with recurrent ovarian cancer. “Jeanne has been dealt a very hard blow, and she’s handled it with a great deal of poise and grace,” Argenta says. “It’s very inspiring.”
Beyond treating individual women, Argenta is fighting cancer on a broader scale through basic research.Working with colleagues such as associate professor Charles Blomquist, Ph.D., Argenta hopes to develop new biological treatments that match specific tumor traits. In particular, he’s looking at how steroid enzymes affect tumor growth and at novel pathways for blocking blood supply to a tumor.
Argenta thrives on both the clinical and research aspects of his “unchosen” field. And he and his wife, Oufreez, are happy to be back in the Midwest after years on the East Coast. The couple, who have two young children, both grew up in Michigan.
“The team here had a long-standing tradition in gynecologic oncology,” says Argenta. He especially appreciates the excellent nursing and support staff. “7C [the surgical oncology ward at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview] is the best floor I’ve ever been on, bar none.”