On the surface medical oncology does not seem an attractive career choice. Medical oncology refers to the treatment of cancer by drugs, including chemotherapy. This carries the connotation of patients suffering miserable side effects of treatment and ultimately treatment does not prevent death from the disease. During my training at the University of Auckland Medical School I had no particular awareness of oncology as a career choice as students were not placed on an oncology attachment. Following graduation I spent a year working in a provincial hospital, Taranaki Base Hospital in New Plymouth, then I returned to Auckland Hospital where I was assigned to work for six months on the oncology ward. Oncology wasn’t a popular attachment and I wasn’t overly happy about the prospect. Paradoxically working in oncology proved to be a positive experience and I learnt a lot that had not been highlighted in medical school. This reflected the medical school curriculum of the 1970s which taught a great deal about disease and treatment but not so much about the experience of illness and the impact on the whole person. This unplanned experience in oncology stimulated sufficient interest to consider oncology as a career choice.