EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 26, 2013

Haverhill native named a 'Top Doctor'

Dr. Mary-Ellen Taplin credits Haverhill High teachers with inspiring her

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Dr. Mary-Ellen Taplin takes a personal approach to working with her cancer patients. She says there are a lot of treatment choices for patients these days and those choices can be overwhelming and confusing at times.

She says part of her job is to help her patients and their families navigate the possibilities.

“We try to sit down with patients and help them choose what paths are best for them,” she says in a doctor profile video. “We try to go where they are and bring them along the road to being cared for and recovering and having the best day they can have every day.”

Taplin, a Haverhill native, was recently recognized as a “Top Doctor” in the Boston area by Boston Magazine. Taplin is a medical oncologist at Dana Farber.

She was one of 54 physicians and surgeons affiliated with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to make it into magazine’s annual Top Doctors guide.

Drawing from a Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. Physician database, the list consists of 650 Boston-area physicians from more than 50 medical specialties and is available on Boston Magazine’s website and in the December issue of the magazine.

Taplin said she was honored to be recognized by her peers for her efforts in providing outstanding care to her patients.

Taplin, who lives in Boston, grew up in the city’s Riverside neighborhood, where her parents still live. Her sister, Dianne Connolly, is principal of Pentucket Lake Elementary School and lives in Haverhill with her family.

Taplin attended Crowell Elementary, Nettle Middle School and Haverhill High School, Class of 1978.

“I credit my academic success to teachers like Margaret McCormick, who taught Latin at Haverhill High,” she said. “She was very strict and taught her students how to think.”

“A lot of her (McCormick’s) students went on to become professionals, including lawyers and doctors, and we still talk about her,” Taplin said.

Taplin said she loved science in school and that the field of medicine seemed to be a natural fit to her interests.

“I was the first one in my family to go to college,” she said.

She planned to visit her parents in Haverhill for Christmas.

Taplin has two daughters, Emily Carol, 24, who is in a PhD program in clinical psychology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Hallie, 21, a senior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, who plans to apply to medical school next year.

Taplin says cancer is a disease that comes in so many varieties that treatments aren’t one-size-fits-all.

“Not every prostate cancer acts the same,” she said. “Some are indolent, or slow growing, while others are more aggressive.”

“We look at each patient on an individual basis and provide them with therapy options that fit the characteristics of their disease,” she said. Working at Dana Farber, Taplin says she takes pride in providing treatment recommendations in a very individual manner for each patient depending on their personal needs.

As director of the clinical research office for her group, GU Oncology, at any one time she has 25 clinical trials open for patients with GU cancers (prostate, bladder, kidney and testes). She said those trials include the evaluation of new drugs and drug combinations and the analysis of cancer resistance.

An associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Taplin received her MD in 1986 from the University of Massachusetts, Worcester. She completed a residency in internal medicine and chief residency at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and an oncology-hematology fellowship at Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

She was on staff in medical oncology-hematology as an assistant and then associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts from 1993 to 2003, when she joined Dana-Farber.

Dana-Farber provides adult cancer care with Brigham and Women’s Hospital as Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and pediatric cancer care with Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

The full list of physicians can be accessed at http://www.bostonmagazine.com/top-doctors. For more information about Dana-Farber, visit online at www.dana-farber.org.