Cancer doctor Michael Dattoli grew up “dirt poor” but full of ambition in upstate New York. His Italian-born father was a professional boxer who supported the family by doing odd jobs, such as working in pizza parlors and as a janitor. Coached by his father, the young Dattoli became a Golden Gloves boxer and began practicing martial arts, becoming a sixth-degree black belt. But Dattoli’s father also encouraged him to become a doctor. Dattoli was able to pay for medical school with scholarships and school prizes he won in martial arts as well as income from running four martial arts schools around New York state. Today he is founding physician-in-chief of the Sarasota-based Dattoli Cancer Center, which attracts patients from around the world for its nonsurgical treatment of prostate cancer. Dr. Dattoli gives his age as “50-something.”
Describe your clinic. We have a 23,000-square-foot building, which contains some of the world’s most sophisticated radiation technology and where we primarily treat prostate cancer. About 40 people work at the clinic, including one other physician, Dr. Richard Sorace. On a given day we treat about 75 people. In February, we celebrated our 10th anniversary. Since opening, the clinic has treated about 5,000 men. In addition, I do a lot of speaking and publishing. I have written medical textbooks and more than 200 publications.
Why Sarasota? We went around Florida looking for the perfect location, and Sarasota seemed to be it. We are close to airports. We are on the water. We have restaurants. People begin with four to six weeks of treatment at the clinic, and they really like what Sarasota offers.
What you do best. Innovation, which allows me to push the envelope, treat patients and cure patients who are told elsewhere to get their affairs in order.
Best way to start the day. I work out for 40 minutes every morning at the clinic, starting at 4 a.m. Stair running, general calisthenics, including 600 consecutive push-ups, hand strengthening, then more (300 fingertip) push-ups, then 300 sit-ups and finally shadow boxing. Otherwise, I don’t have time because I am on roller skates [metaphorically speaking] all day.
Not yet achieved. I haven’t found a way to avoid working 15 to 18 hours a day. I spend every spare minute with my wife and son, 11. I even postponed having children because of my career. I wish I had more time because there are many hobbies I love but can’t pursue.
Hobbies? Martial arts. And I have several racing motorcycles. Cruising doesn’t fit into my lifestyle. I can’t cruise. I gotta race. And I love jungles. I have been to every primitive jungle in the world. I have had pilots drop me off with a plan to meet me 100 miles upriver in seven days. I’ve done that in places like New Guinea and Borneo.
Lessons learned from being a boss. I have learned a lot more about people and how to treat people better. Rarely do people who come here to take a job ever leave. They stay because I try to be as compassionate as possible to all my staff. I don’t pressure them as much as myself.
Future goal. I would be very happy if there was a cure for prostate cancer, even though it would mean this center had no value. People often ask me if I am worried that there might be a cure, but I think that would be the most wonderful thing in the world.