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CTSC One - Health Kristy Richards MD, PhD - Treating Cancer with Kindness

“Do what you love,” said Kristy Richards, PhD, MD, head of the new CTSC One Health program which includes Veterinary Medicine and Targeted Clinical Trials. A concept embraced by CTSC’s Principal Investigator, Julianne Imperato-McGinley, MD, who appointed her to direct the CTSC’s One Health initiative. 

Weill Cornell’s CTSC and its partners Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Animal Medical Center in New York are one of 13 national CTSC hubs that form the CTSA One Health Alliance (COHA). COHA’s mission is to break down the silos that divide medical schools and veterinary schools to produce radical new collaborations and advances. Kristy acts as mentor to several of its trainees and scholars, both DVMs and MDs and will provide potential trial subjects. Cross veterinary/medical scholarly interactions will enrich trainee and junior faculty by increasing collaborations between the campuses and trial sites. 

Kristy’s educational path, her career trajectory, and her life’s dedication to studying biology, genetics, hematology, oncology, animal health care, converged this past fall when she and her long-time Tuft’s colleague, Cheryl London, DVM, PhD, were awarded a $2.5 million NIH/NCI grant to study the effects of using the body’s own immune system to treat certain lymphomas in dogs. WCM and Tufts are members of the CTSC’s COHA. 

A healthy immune system fights many common disorders even cancer.  When it fails to do its job, targeted and non-toxic therapeutic compounds can be introduced with some remarkable results.  This novel technique has the potential to dramatically change the way cancers are treated, potentially eliminating the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy - A chemo-free blueprint. Kristy is taking revolutionary strides in translational research in human and veterinary medicine. 

Kristy Richards is a novel thinker who is open to new ideas that cross diverse medical disciplines. This includes veterinary patients with health conditions that very closely mimic their human counterparts.  Incorporating veterinary patients into the experimental drug pipeline can improve the speed, accuracy and cost of developing new therapeutics. 

As a freshman at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences she majored in Animal Science. She then switched to major in Biology, becoming fascinated with laboratory research, especially molecular biology and genetics. Kristy headed off to Stanford as an NSF fellow and received a PhD in Genetics.  Learning how similar the genomes of larger animals are to humans reinforced the concept of cross-species comparisons and led to the concept of "One Health/One Medicine” - the idea that animal and human pathology, and hence their health care, are essentially the same. 

What does an animal enthusiast do after graduating with a PhD in Genetics?  She obtains a medical degree from Stanford, does her residency training in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s, followed by a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, with a joint appointment in the Division of Hematology/Medical Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine.  Dr. Richards divides her time between the Ithaca and WCM campuses. 

We still have miles to go, and Kristy Richards is paving the way. How did this medical-doctor find herself surrounded by dogs and veterinarians?  Simple, she said, “Do what you love.” 

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