I was raised in Montana, where I earned my undergraduate degree in biomedical science at Montana State University. I knew I wanted a career in medicine-either human or veterinary medicine-and struggled with the decision for years before I made up my mind.
As a freshman veterinary student, I quickly realized that I wanted to be a surgeon. Comparatively speaking, getting into veterinary school was easy, while becoming a surgeon is hard work. You are required to complete a 1-year internship and a 3-year residency. I did three internships and two years of general practice, and then was accepted into a surgical residency at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Since soft-tissue surgery is my interest, and Penn has one of the best soft-tissue surgery departments in the world. I was thrilled.
I was wary of moving to Philadelphia because so different from the West, but I loved the city. Throughout my residency, I worked with some very talented people, but my husband and I came to realize that the West is home. So, when the surgical oncology fellowship became available at the Flint Animal Cancer Center, it was not only an opportunity to gain new experience, but also to return to our roots.
A fellowship is a one-year program beyond a residency that focuses training on a specific aspect of a specialty. For me, I gained a "global" view of treating cancer patients during my fellowship: learning the relationship between surgery, medical oncology, radiation and the rules governing each. As an oncologic surgeon, how the other disciplines contribute to the overall treatment of a patient are extremely important considerations.
Typically, my day is divided equally between clinics and surgery. Mornings are service-related, spent on patient admissions, answering phone consultations, seeing new patients and rechecks, checking hospital patients and doing rounds with the students. I really enjoy working with students. I like seeing the light go on when understanding suddenly occurs. By noon, I'm in the operating room until about 5 pm. Fridays are surgery days-all day-and since surgeons are happiest in the operating room, Fridays are the best day of the week.
I have incredible mentors in Dr. Stephen Withrow and Dr. Nicole Ehrhart, both as surgeons and researchers. In the area of soft-tissue oncology research, there is a lot I might pursue, such as the spread of cancer in the lymphatic system, how it metastasizes and how to prevent it. There is no lack of research projects to consider here at the FACC. The most wonderful aspect of working at the Flint Animal Cancer Center is the enormous potential for growth and learning. There is always something new. You can't approach things in a mechanical way; you must be curious, open, and willing to explore other solutions. Translational aspects are very important to all of us here at the FACC, we're not looking at only one species when we treat patients, we're trying to eradicate cancer in all species.