An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Josh Jenisch | January 12, 2018
Farah Abdulla | City of Hope Farah Abdulla, M.D.
Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Farah Abdulla, M.D., got her first doctor’s kit from her grandmother when she was 5 years old.

“My mom says that she could never find Band-Aids in the house because I was always putting them on my stuffed animals,” Abdulla said. “I knew I wanted to be a doctor from the very beginning.”

Knowing from an early age that she would go into medicine, Abdulla moved quickly. She started looking at combined undergraduate medical programs while she was still in high school, and enrolled at Northeast Ohio Medical University. It was there that she took the first steps toward her specialty in dermatology and dermatopathology.

People tend to think of skin conditions as a cosmetic issue,” she explained. “But conditions like lymphomas and melanoma can have huge impacts on the length and quality of life. They’re out in the open where you can see them, and that can affect your psyche even more.”

After getting her medical degree at Northeast Ohio Medical University, Abdulla went on to train at the University of Cincinnati and Stanford University. She later became director of the Multidisciplinary Cutaneous Lymphoma Clinic at the University of Chicago Medical Center. And in late 2017, she returned to California to join City of Hope as assistant clinical professor in the Department of Surgery within the Division of Dermatology.

She said that she’s especially moved by working with patients who lack access to care because they’re low income or don’t have the right health coverage.

“In my previous job, I really saw how much these patients lose to skin disease,” she recalled. “For example, about four years ago, I saw a gentleman who developed skin lymphoma and wound up losing his job because of his condition. He lost everything, couldn’t pay for medical care, and passed away in the hospital.”

She said that one reason she was so excited to accept a position at City of Hope is the level of resources available to patients, even those who lack access to care.

“I’ve never seen an institution like City of Hope that does so much for its patients,” she said. “And not just to treat the disease, but also to help the patients and their families with everything else that’s going on, whether through social workers or the philanthropy that provides access to treatments.”

The other big reason she chose City of Hope was the opportunity to work alongside Christiane Querfeld, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Dermatology chief and director of the Cutaneous Lymphoma Program. Abdulla’s work at City of Hope will focus primarily on the research and treatment of cutaneous lymphoma, including conducting clinical trials with Querfeld, as well as graft-versus-host disease.

“Both diseases are very difficult to deal with, but it’s also an exciting time in field,” she said. “From a scientific point of view, I’m so excited to work with Dr. Querfeld and the cutaneous lymphoma team here — talk about everything coming together!”

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