D. Barry Boyd, MD, MS, was on his way to a career as an evolutionary biologist when he got derailed by oncology. Three animal biologists received the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine, and what stood out to Dr. Boyd was that one of the winners obtained his medical degree before pursuing zoology.
“I was struck by the comprehensive nature of the medical education required for an MD, and I also became more interested in the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology,” says Dr. Boyd, an oncologist and hematologist.
Dr. Boyd enrolled in a graduate program focused on nutrition, which further shaped his work. “When I went to medical school, we spent an hour on nutrition, and in my oncology training, not a single minute was spent discussing diet,” he says. “But when I went into practice, patients were always asking me about nutrition, which further propelled me to investigate what role it plays in cancer.”
Dr. Boyd went on to write a book, “The Cancer Recovery Plan,” which focuses on nutrition, exercise, and stress relief, and began lecturing widely on these topics. “I am a biologist at heart and enjoy exploring critical questions, one patient at a time, learning about their backgrounds, diets, and lifestyles to understand their role in health and disease outcome,” says Dr. Boyd, who created and directed the curriculum on nutrition and integrative medicine for Yale School of Medicine, where he still lectures on nutrition and cancer.
Nutrition plans for cancer patients are highly personalized, he adds. “One of the best treatments for cancer is joy, I like to say. If you take away foods people like or put them on a diet they hate, then their life will be miserable,” he says. “However, you want to still have a healthy diet with adequate protein and calories and fiber.”
The best part of his job, Dr. Boyd says, is caring for people. “I feel very fortunate to do what I do,” he says.