Former NCAA basketball player calls CU Cancer Center home

The love of being part of something bigger brought player to the field of cancer research and care.
April 18, 2016

Even before Thomas (TJ) Pugh, MD, grew to 6’10″, he loved the sport of basketball.

“It was sort of a religion for me,” says Pugh, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. “Playing basketball taught me great life lessons and the importance of being part of a team.”

In fact, the love of being part of something bigger than himself is what brought Pugh to the field of cancer research and care. In it, a primary care physician helps someone recognize a problem, specialists collaborate to ensure that they receive the best care possible, nurse navigators keep patients on a smooth track and health psychologists make sure they have a safe place to talk about their concerns. Many people working together to create the best possible outcome for a person. A team.

Pugh grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and attended the University of Kansas (KU) on a basketball scholarship. During his time at KU he played in the NCAA tournament for four years. His team also brought home four conference championships. In recognition of his success, he was one of seven athletes nationally to be awarded a post-graduate scholarship by the national collegiate athletic association (NCAA) for academic and athletic achievement.

“During my four years, we still rank among the top all-time nationally in total wins,” says Pugh. “In sports, everyone wants to be remembered as a winner. I’m not sure how long that will last, but it is something I am proud of.”

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