Barb '81 and Paul '81 Adams
Medicine is the tie that binds the Adams' family
by Liz Cezat, special writer
If you ask if there’s a doctor in the Adams’ household, you can expect a “yes” from parents Barb ‘81 and Paul ‘81 and from many of their six children. One is a surgical resident, another is in medical school, and two to three others plan to follow their parents’ career choice. The oldest is studying health care administration.
Undergraduates in the College of Engineering & Science at University of Detroit, Barb and Paul shared three classes together at one point: Physiology, Genetics and Religion. They spent a lot of time walking to class, studying and dating.
Barb credits the University’s strong science program for her success in medical school. “The Jesuit education prepared me to analyze data and think logically—skills that are useful in medicine.”
She received an Insignis scholarship, and enjoyed living on campus. She belonged to the life science club, Tri Sigma Sorority and AED, a pre-med honors society. She also tutored local grade school children in reading and math.
Paul was active on campus as president of the Chemistry Club and treasurer of the Engineering & Science Council. He planned to pursue a business degree in the sciences and did a rotational co-op at Dow Chemical in Midland to test those plans. While he liked the experience, he didn’t want to spend his career in a lab and chose to become a doctor.
They married soon after graduating and both went on to medical school in Detroit. Barb became a pediatrician and Paul became an oncologist/hematologist.
During the hectic early days of their career, Barb worked at Henry Ford Health System in pediatrics, and Paul at University of Michigan Medical Center, holding various director roles—in adult bone marrow transplant, hematology and oncology.
In 1999, Paul was recruited to become medical director at the Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, a new joint venture at the time. He sees patients at his Genesee Hematology Oncology practice in Flint, and is also director of Adult Hemophilia at Hurley Medical Center.
When the family moved to Grand Blanc from Northville, Barb cut back her practice to part-time so she could handle the needs of their growing family. Their youngest is now 13 years old and they are also grandparents.
Paul’s super-charged career includes clinical research, involvement in medical oncology groups, and teaching. He is a former president of The Michigan Society of Hematology and Oncology.
Barb said, “One of the advantages of being a two-physician couple is that we understand what each other is going through at work.”
As a pediatrician, Barb is concerned about the lack of activity and physical exercise of youth today. “All the buzz is about obesity. I think it’s more related to activity. Kids now sit around with electronics. It’s more sedentary and isolating,” she noted. “I’m curious how it will affect our society in the future.”
Paul is optimistic about finding cures for cancer, which is a range of diseases. “Remarkable progress is being made. We now have the ability to find the gene structure of every cancer and in the future should be able to target treatment to individual genes that play a role in cancer.
“One of the most gratifying aspects of my job is seeing people alive and well and knowing that I played a large part in their recovery,” he said.
As a member of the Clinical Practice Committee of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Paul met with the group in Washington, D.C., over a two-year period to develop practice guidelines for oncologists nationwide. He also worked to implement best practice standards for oncology care for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Doctors who follow those care guidelines for patients insured by BCBS now get incentives. He is proud of his efforts to improve the quality of cancer care.
Despite busy medical practices, both find time for interests that include traveling and tennis. They are also active in their parish, Holy Family. Barb is a past president of the Lansing Guild of the Catholic Medical Association and serves on its board.
Paul’s advice to science majors is: “Get as much background and experience as possible. Don’t be afraid to try new things or take tough courses. If you want to go into medicine, be prepared for it to take up a lot of time.”
Barb and Paul’s parents also attended U of D, as did four of his siblings. His father, Vaughn Adams '54, was a long-time popular Philosophy professor at the University.