New Faculty Focus: Becky Richards

Q&A with Becky Richards, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Bone Marrow Transplant

Hometown: Akron, Ohio

Educational/professional background: I completed my undergraduate degree from Ashland University in Ohio. I earned an MD/PhD degree at Oregon Health and Science University, then stayed on the West Coast for a pediatrics residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at Stanford University. I stayed at Stanford for three years after fellowship as an instructor, where I developed a research and clinical focus in high-risk leukemias and immunotherapy.

Previous position: Instructor, Stanford University

How would you describe your work to a 5-year-old? I am a doctor for kids who have bad cells in their bodies, kind of like weeds in a garden. I use really cool, specialized medications to get rid of those bad cells and make sure they never come back. That way the good cells can grow and thrive where they are supposed to.

What is your field of research or area of clinical care, and how did you get into it? I take care of patients with all types of hematology or oncology problems but have developed a clinical and research focus in high-risk leukemias and in development of novel immunotherapies (in particular CAR T cells). I decided to enter the field of pediatric hematology/oncology during medical school, when I realized I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I have never looked back and am still inspired every day by my patients and their families.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? The rich history of pediatric immunotherapy research and exceptional mentorship and colleagues.

What is your favorite thing to do in Madison? I have never lived in Madison before and am enjoying exploring the great parks, restaurants, farmers markets, and UW sporting events!

What’s one thing you hope trainees will learn from you and your work? Be humble and stay open to discovery. Our patients are always teaching us, but we have to stay engaged and be prepared for our assumptions to be turned upside down.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how. I want every family in the state of Wisconsin and in surrounding areas to know their child will receive state-of-the-art care when they need medical treatment. I am proud to work in a department that embodies that ideal and is continually working to make sure this is a reality for all patients.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter during video chats and parties? You make about 2 million new red blood cells every second.

What are some of your hobbies and other interests? I love anything that includes spending time outdoors, especially running and mountain biking, and I am a soccer enthusiast. I love cooking, mostly because it involves eating. My favorite activity these days is chasing my kids around and watching them thrive.