A Quest for Excellence
Ivan Piñón, MD, once thought his future would lead to the lab bench.
But a long career practicing as an endocrinologist in the Albuquerque area has led him to The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center to serve as a crucial part of the effort to build a thyroid and parathyroid center of excellence.
“There’s a significant population of patients with thyroid cancers and disease,” Piñón says. “As the lead endocrinologist I will conduct the critical workup for their condition, and if indicated, I will refer patients to our surgeons for surgical consultations. Patients will follow up with me for aftercare and cancer surveillance.”
Piñón says he’s excited to join the new center of excellence and credits UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center surgeons Nathan Boyd, MD, and Garth Olson, MD, for championing the idea.
“The goal is to be the referral center for the state of New Mexico and the Southwest, including Arizona and Colorado,” Piñón says.
In addition to his work with thyroid cancers, Piñón says his expertise will help patients with other conditions.
“A lot of patients with other types of cancers are on drugs that can cause endocrine problems,” Piñón says, adding that he will be available to provide his expertise to other physicians.
Piñón, who has more than 20 years of experience as an endocrinologist, says his interest in the endocrine system developed while he was a student at Southern Methodist University.
“My dad was a pharmacist, so that got me interested in medicine and research in an indirect way,” Piñón says.
While at SMU, he developed an interest in science and research, particularly in endocrinology. His budding interests led him to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he was planning to study lactation hormones in elephant seals.
The program changed focus to mice and after a while, Piñón says, he began to think more about a career in research.
“After 3 ½ years working on a PhD, I got a little disillusioned with it,” he says. “I didn’t want to work behind a research bench, by myself, the whole time. So I quit my PhD program and received a master’s degree.”
The El Paso, Texas, native moved to Valhalla, N.Y., and completed his medical degree at New York Medical College.
Following graduation, Piñón came to Albuquerque for his residency and stayed. “I was originally from the Southwest, but I didn’t want to go back to Texas,” he says.
Piñón completed his residency at UNM and the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque, followed by a fellowship in endocrinology and metabolism with UNM’s Division of Endocrinology, also at the VA Medical Center.
Piñón also taught as an assistant professor of internal medicine for the UNM Department of Internal Medicine before joining Presbyterian Hospital as a staff endocrinologist in 2004.
“The main thing about my new position is letting people know I’m here for them,” Piñón says. “I’ve been involved in endocrinology for 20-some years. The mission of the Cancer Center is to take care of those patients, but also to teach the upcoming residents, fellows and medical students. It’s a unique thing to New Mexico.”
The Thyroid and Parathyroid Team at the UNM Cancer Center is a multidisciplinary clinic. It consists of surgeons Boyd, Olson, Andrew Cowan, MD, PhD; and Noah Syme, MD. In addition to Piñón, it includes endocrinologists Christina Lovato, MD, and Patricia Kapsner, MD; and pathologists Shweta Agarwal, MD, Nadja Falk, MD, Nancy Joste, MD, Cory Broehm, MD, and Samuel Reynolds, MD.