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Focus on David G. Mutch, MD

David Mutch, MD (right) with his son David (3rd from right) and friends, camping and fishing at the border marshes near Canada..
David G. Mutch, MD is chief of the Division on Gynecologic Oncology. He treats patients with all types of gynecologic cancer, including ovarian and cervical cancer.


Dr. Mutch, why did you choose Washington University?

I grew up in Sioux Falls South Dakota, where my father was an Ob-Gyn in private practice. I majored in chemistry in college, and thought that might be my career. But then I decided to go to medical school, with a plan to go into practice with my dad.

I was fortunate that I transferred to Washington University School of Medicine, where I came to learn my version of what academic medicine is all about. This institution was, and still is, unusual in that the three programs that make up an academic center – clinical practice, basic science and teaching – are all outstanding and well balanced. Other places may have an outstanding clinical program or strong science, but here, they were all equally excellent. We have an unusually good basic science program at Washington University.

In medical school, I was influenced by many notable faculty and private physicians attending in the hospitals who were all dedicated to teaching – amazing people in pediatrics, neurology, ob-gyn, surgery, the gamut. As a result of the quality standards they set, our medical education was the absolute best. I did my residency here and then went to Duke for a fellowship in gynecologic oncology.

After this exposure and guidance from several unwavering mentors, I knew academic medicine is where I belonged. I returned to Washington University in 1987.

What aspect of your practice is most interesting?

I really like taking care of sick patients. I value the relationship I have with a patient with gynecologic cancer - through the treatment stages, the remissions, the re-occurrences, and to the ultimate end. It is important that when a person faces the end of life that she and her family know that everything possible has been done for her and that she and they accept that death is a natural part of life.

We are making huge strides in treating ovarian cancer. The life expectancy of women with ovarian cancer has lengthened dramatically. When I was a fellow, life expectancy, on the average, was 24 months. Now in some situations, patients can expect up to seven years, on the average. Some live a lot longer.

How will the prevention and treatment for ovarian cancer change in the next ten years?

I don’t expect there will ever be a mass screening for ovarian cancer, because of the low prevalence in our society.

But with more understanding of genetic markers, we will be able to identify women who are at risk for genetic disease and take steps to prevent the development of genetically based ovarian cancer. This will be a giant step forward, which would affect from 7-10% of the present patient population.

For those patients with developed cancer, we will be using more targeted biologic therapies, which will give better outcomes with less toxicity. Biologic therapies work with the body’s immune system to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.

In ten years, we will be able to identify the DNA that controls the expression or lack of expression of the abnormal proteins that cause cells to grow in an uncontrolled way. When we can identify which genes are the critical ones, we can make proteins that can replace or change that biologic error. This will not only improve the quality of life during treatment, we expect it will prolong life.

We have a number of clinical trials now underway using some of these biologic therapies.

You are continuously listed in the America’s Top Doctors list and have received many professional awards. Which achievement has been the most gratifying to you ?

I would have to say my Teacher of the Year awards. I have received three of them from our ob-gyn residents - in 1989, 1994 and 1997.

What is the best advice you ever received?

One of my professional mentors was my Fellowship Director at Duke University Medical School, William Creasman, MD He is now department chairman at the Medical University of South Carolina and is a nationally and internationally known pelvic surgeon and gynecologic oncologist. After my fellowship, Bill helped me sort through my choices – to go into private practice in South Dakota, to stay at Duke or to come back to Washington University. He said “We have taught you how to fulfill the academic mission. Why don’t you at least give it a try?” It turns out that Washington University was the best option for me.

What do you do in your spare time ?

I am from South Dakota – so I like to do all the outdoor things – like camping and fishing. It's part of my heritage, I guess. In South Dakota, the first day of the hunting and fishing seasons are like the opening of the baseball season here.

What lifestyle change could most benefit our health?

In America, we consume way too much food and exercise far too little. I have learned recently, as a result of working out with my friends, that it only takes a half hour of exercise, three times a week, to make a difference.

For more information about Dr. Mutch, visit his bio page.

To make an appointment for a first or second opinion, please phone (314) 362 3181.

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Copyright 2015 Washington University School of Medicine