Arizona Oncology's Physician/Survivor


Arizona Oncology Associates Physician, Dr. Robert Rufo, hoped to set the pace during the survivors' lap at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life at the Sedona Red Rock High School which took place on September 18th, 2009.

After spending an hour with him, reporter Susan Johnson admitted, "it's hard to believe anyone could beat him, and it's easy to understand why his office staff puts up signs on his door reminding him to slow down."

Shelly Burris is the front office coordinator for Arizona Oncology at the Sedona-Verde Valley Medical Center, one of the doctor's co-workers who has to hang on tight to the tails of the Oncologists lab coat.

"His brain is working so fast no one else can keep up!  The man is brilliant." Burris said.

Rufo recieved his M.D. from Tufts University School of Medicine and completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, his hematology fellowship at Boston University Medical Center and his Medical Oncology fellowship at Tufts New England Medical Center.

Board certified in internal medicine, hematology and medical oncology, he worked in cancer research during medical school and spent two years at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md., doing research in the treatment of iron storage disorders. 

He recently celebrated his 30th anniversary as a pacticing physician, 25 of those years spent in private practice in Fall River, Mass., and the latter five years at Arizona Oncology working at its Sedona location.

It's no surprise to learn he carried around his own microscope as a kid, nor that this human embodiement of the energizer bunny ran track and field.

It is his fervor, however, for ridding patients of cancer, more than anything else, that leaves a lasting impression.

Although the speed and vocabulary of his technical explanations are hopelessly beyond anyone other than another medical expert, he tries to help out by spelling difficult works and translating procedures into simpler terms.

He is also quick to explain he's a cancer survivor who just passed his five year check-up.

"When I get that envelope with the results, I open it very fast," he said.

Rufo said his life changed completely after being diagnosed.

"My approach to patients changed for sure.  I understand now that once you've had cancer, you feel different than other people, not inferior, not defective, but different." 

Rufo had several words of wisdom for those who haven't been diagnosed with the disease and those who have:

1. Avoid smoking; it not only causes cancer, but it interferes with medications.

2. Get screened.

3. Know your family history, and if you don't know it, start looking into it now.  Those with a family history of cancer must begin regular screening at an age 10 years younger than the relative who was diagnosed.  In other words, if a parent was diagnosed at the age of 50, the child must begin screening no later than 40.

For those who have been diagnosed with cancer:

1. Develop a positive outlook.  The mind influences the body, and people who have a positive outlook do better than those who don't.

2. Live like life is a gift; live it day to day and be greatful.



Red Rock News, Sedona AZ.  Reported by: Susan Johson, 8/26/09.