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Team Member Spotlight: Zach Reitman, MD, PhD

Friday, December 11, 2020
By Natalie Ashley

Dr. Reitman grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and attended the Penn State Schreyer Honors College to earn a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He completed his MD/PhD degrees in the Medical Scientist Training Program here at Duke in 2014. He completed residency in 2019 at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program, where he trained in radiation oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Reitman is a physician-scientist studying new treatments in the lab that he hopes could one day be used to make radiation therapy more effective, and with fewer side effects, for adults and children with brain tumors.


1. Most rewarding component of job?
I really enjoy working on a team consisting of experts in different areas – surgery, medical oncology, palliative care, diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology… the list goes on.

2. Wish for 2021?
My wife, my son and I are looking forward to introducing a little baby sister into the world early next year – hoping she is happy and healthy.

3. If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?
 Dr. Emmett Brown, the time traveling scientist from the Back to the Future movies.

4. What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
I really enjoy biking over to the Al Buehler trail and going on a run.

5. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
The dishes… in our house, I usually do the dishes and my wife does the cooking. I don’t enjoy scrubbing all of those dishes but it's definitely worth it because she’s an excellent cook.

6. Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best?
Yes – I didn’t match to my top choice for my intern year. This is the first year of training after medical school, usually a year of general medical work in a hospital. I ended up at a fairly busy hospital in Baltimore and worked a lot in some of the intensive care units, but I think it made me a better doctor.

7. What three traits define you?
 Curious, creative, compassionate.

8. Ten years ago, who did you think you would be now?
I actually applied to medical school to become an infectious disease specialist, to deal with viruses. My interests changed a bit along the way and I decided to become a radiation oncologist. But with the current pandemic, it doesn’t feel all that different in some ways – we’re dealing with COVID-19 in one way or another every single day.

9. What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?
I would probably be an engineer or computer programmer.

10. How do you define success?
I’d define it as delivering the best possible care to our patients now, and also making progress towards delivering even better care in the future through research.