Letter to Santa

Margaret Tempero
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Dear Santa,

I hope you remember me. It’s Margaret from JNCCN. I hope you, Mrs. Claus, and all the elves are doing well. I trust everyone up there is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and that you have ended the mask mandate in the workshop. I always wondered where you got the tiny masks for the elves, but the other day I saw a cat wearing one, so I guess you can probably order them online.

Though I only asked for 4 things last year, I just got one, and it made me wonder if you thought I hadn’t been good. Trust me, I have tried extra hard this year. I check my inbox in EPIC regularly, and I get all my notes done the same day I see a patient. I get all my orders and referrals in promptly, and I am trying to understand how to enter staging information. You know, it’s not so easy to learn these things when you have been around as long as I have.

But thank you so much for keeping telehealth alive. Patients love it, and I actually think we are more efficient in clinic. Now, if we can get reciprocity for licensure so that we can continue seeing patients across state lines, it would be great! Patients, especially in rural areas, often need access to specialty care, and this is a good way to provide it.

I hope you are feeling generous this year, because I have some serious stuff on my list. It’s been a tough year for patients with cancer everywhere, but especially in Ukraine. We are all burnt out by political tensions, widespread anger and hatred, and violence. Everyone has some need for healing. So here it goes!

  1. Bring us an army of nurses and ancillary medical staff so that we can see more patients and get them the care they deserve. The workforce shortage is having serious consequences in healthcare. We are good at developing new medications and procedures, but without staff, we can’t provide comprehensive care.

  2. Bring a box of love and kindness for everyone to share with colleagues and staff. After being physically apart for so long, it is difficult to regain that important sense of community.

  3. Provide a way for our government to prevent shortages of critical drugs and medical supplies. This is currently killing patients (literally) and no one seems to have a solution.

  4. Finally, deliver an immunotherapy that works for all cancers. I had this on the list last year, but you were probably too busy to work on it.

I don’t want to press my luck, so I won’t ask for anything else. I figure this is a pretty daunting list as it is, but I believe you and the elves are up to it! And remember, we can have a Zoom meeting to discuss this in more detail. I hope you can share your screen, because I would love to see photos of some of the things you and the elves are working on.

Before I close, I want to remind you to get your flu shot. It’s predicted to be a bad year, and you need to stay healthy! I’ll end by wishing you and Mrs. Claus a happy holiday season. As always, the good cheer and good will you pass around the world each year is so appreciated…and so needed.




Margaret Tempero, MD, is a Professor of Medicine and Director of the UCSF Pancreas Center and editor-in-chief of JNCCN. Her research career has focused on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, especially in the area of investigational therapeutics. Dr. Tempero has served on the ASCO Board of Directors and as ASCO President. She currently serves on the ASCO Conquer Cancer Foundation Board. She codirected the AACR/ASCO Methods in Clinical Cancer Research and taught this course and similar courses in Europe and Australia. She was founding Chair of the NCI Clinical Oncology Study Section and served as a member and Chair of the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors Subcommittee A. She is a member of the Scientific Steering Committee and Chair of the Clinical and Translational Study Section for the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas. She is or has been on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Lustgarten Foundation, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the V Foundation, The Alberta Canada Cancer Board, and the EORTC. She served as a member of the Oncology Drug Advisory Committee for the FDA. She has served as Deputy Director and Interim Director for the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center. She is Chief Emeritus of the Division of Medical Oncology at UCSF. She served as the founding Deputy Director and was later Director of Research Programs at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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