Top Doctors in Nashville: John Greer, MD
Instead of taking up the family business of insurance sales, Dr. John Greer went to Vanderbilt School of Medicine and now fights cancer.
Written By: Melissa Carro
Photographers: Louisa Wells
As seen in Top Doctors in Nashville, July 2014
According to Dr. John Greer, if he’d decided to sell insurance, his life might have been completely different. After all, his entire family sold insurance, so it seemed like a predictable path. Instead, he went to Vanderbilt School of Medicine, where he met his wife, a nurse.
That was more than 35 years ago—a time span that has seen significant changes not only in health care but at Vanderbilt as well. It was the progress Greer witnessed being made there that drew him to the school and the field of hematology. Whereas most cancers are solid cancers, Greer was interested in liquid tumors, which comprise only 10 to 15 percent of all cancers.
“I wanted to take care of the ‘malignant host,’ the leukemias,” says Greer. “I wanted to take care of patients for the long haul. I feel fortunate to have had some patients for 20-plus years.”
Such life expectancy was unheard of in the early 1980s. At that point, the cure rate was 20 to 30 percent. Today, it’s as high as 90 percent. And although he relishes the progress, Greer acknowledges that it carries a price. “Some of my patients’ medicines are exorbitantly expensive,” he says. “I’m looking forward to the future in health care because this new generation of doctors will figure out how to better contain costs and increase access.”
In fact, one part of Vanderbilt that Greer particularly enjoys is working with young doctors. Having spanned three decades at the institution, he acknowledges he’s probably seen it all. Multiply the number of years by the number of patients he sees and you get staggering results. Lucky for all of them, Greer never saw himself as a salesman.