One of the great joys of medicine is the constant learning. By the time a physician retires, 80% of their practice was learned after residency. Medicine is a science that is continually evolving while the art of human compassion is always enriching.
My education continues when I attend national, regional and local medical conferences. This past May, I attended the American Society of Breast Surgeons conference in Chicago, where breast and general surgeons meet to discuss the latest scientific knowledge, learn advanced techniques, and discuss innovative ideas to improve the lives of breast cancer survivors. I return to my patients with new evidence, better skills and a deeper understanding of how best to care for them.
Medical school was a dream come true. I was learning all the secrets of the human body; how the brain fired neurons to make the muscles of the hand close so that I could hold my girlfriend’s hand; how my heart beat rapidly when she kissed me; how my lungs could inhale her sweet perfume; and how my brain imagined those sweet dreams of her. I studied the Krebs cycle, which turns food into energy, with oxygen playing a vital role in this dance. I read about our immune system killing infections, fighting cancer, and healing injury. I learned to cure disease.
The best chance to cure breast cancer is surgery. In a world with great advances in science and great progress in medicine, surgery remains the most effective treatment for breast cancer. When breast cancer remains in the breast, surgery can be curative. When breast cancer leaves the breast, surgery remains as the best means to rid the body of the breast cancer nest. Other, or adjuvant, therapies are then used to seek out and destroy those breast cancer cells that flew from the nest.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, with their ever present Pink Running Ribbon, fights for a world free of breast cancer. I was fortunate to have had the support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; they supported my Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. Susan G. Komen for the Cure advocates for eradication of breast cancer in many ways: they advocate for mammography to enhance successful treatments; they advocate for basic science research to hunt for the secrets behind breast cancer; and they advocate for translational research to bring those secrets from “the bench to the bedside.” And there are many advocacy organizations that have similar, if not identical, goals, including the American Cancer Society, Y-ME, FORCE, etc…
I remember the exact moment the heavens opened. I walked into the operating theater and there before me, stood a surgeon and his team, easing someone’s pain. My destiny was set – I, too, was to become a surgeon.