Meet Benjamin Moeller, MD, PhD, SERO’s December 2020 Provider of the Month

Dr. Moeller, MD, PhD

At SERO, when it comes to treatment and care, our physicians lead with a patient-first approach. This means that in addition to fully understanding a patient’s medical history, our doctors understand their personal history too, like who their immediate family members are or what their passions and hobbies might be. That’s because when doctors know patients on a personal level, there’s more trust and communication resulting in a better experience for the patient. 

One way SERO tries to better connect with patients is by sharing the backgrounds and stories of our doctors. This month, we interviewed Dr. Moeller, MD, PhD, to learn more about his background, family, and passions. 

Tell us about how you ended up in radiation oncology.

I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. I didn’t have an academic focus until halfway through high school when I signed up to be on Central High’s Academic Decathlon team (mostly because a friend I drove to and from school wanted to join). The competition had a focus on biomedical science during my senior year and, from there, I was hooked. We read “Arrowsmith” by Sinclair Lewis, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a physician-scientist, and I found it inspiring. We learned about molecular biology, the Human Genome Project, and the research of Dr. Phillip Sharp, a professor at MIT. I knew then how I wanted to spend my next 4 years.

I was accepted at MIT and moved to Boston. I spent my 4 years as an undergraduate working hard in the lab of Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute, learning about the impact of DNA imprinting on cancer. There were many lessons I took from that experience, but the most important one was that I wanted my life’s focus to be more practical than a basic science career would allow.

From there, I was accepted as a medical student at Duke University. On arriving, I never would have guessed that the most important thing to happen to me as a med student would unfold at a bar in Chapel Hill – meeting my wife. She was a few years behind me on her path to become a doctor, so it worked out well for planning our lives together that Duke’s MD/PhD program was able to accept me as a joint degree candidate. I was fortunate to be able to pursue my PhD in Mark Dewhirst’s lab. I was drawn to his research by the complex animal models he used to study cancer. A veterinary radiation oncologist by training, Mark interfaced with Duke’s clinical department of radiation oncology and, so, served as my initial introduction to the field.

Radiation oncology ties together everything that interests me about science and medicine. Cancer is a formidable foe, but one that radiation biology and technology have advanced considerably to fight effectively. Because of that, I get to go to work every day to help patients beat cancer, which is incredibly rewarding.

Tell us about your family.

I married my wife, Molly, during her 3rd year of medical school, which was my final year of my PhD studies. Our first son, Gavin, was born during our 4th year of medical school. We then moved to Houston to start our training at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Children’s Hospital. Molly’s sister moved to Houston with us to help out with Gavin’s care. Our next two children, Ella and Henry, were both born in Houston. I was fortunate to be hired by SERO at the end of my residency, and Liam was born in Charlotte one month after we moved here for this job. Lucy, our 5th and youngest, was also born in Charlotte. 

Recently, when our youngest children were finally old enough to put up with it, we started traveling as a family, and this quickly became our favorite way to make memories together. 

How do you spend time out of work?

“Father of 5” is nearly a full-time job. I specialize in teaching my kids to read, ride bikes, and drive cars. I also cook waffles on the weekend so that their mom doesn’t have to. In the alone moments I find, I like to exercise and play the violin. I also recently picked up knitting. Here I am modeling the first sweater I made for my wife, as a work in progress. She has many nicer sweaters, but none that took this long to make!