When did you decide you wanted to become a doctor?
I decided to pursue medical school during my undergraduate studies in biochemistry. My grandfather and father were both university chemistry professors that were heavily involved in teaching and research. When I started my undergraduate studies, I was planning on following in their footsteps.
I became fascinated with the connection between the basic science classes (chemistry and biology) and the human body. After spending time working with physicians in their clinics, I found medicine to be a very personally fulfilling area to work in.
Why did you choose oncology?
My father has (throughout his chemistry career) been focused on finding carcinogens in the environment that can lead to cancer. During high school, I worked in one of his labs as a laboratory assistant on projects where we analyzed environmental toxins that were cancer causing. Because of my past research experience, I naturally was drawn to research in the cancer field when I started medical school. I found oncology very uplifting, emotionally rewarding, and intellectually exciting as it is a constantly changing field of medicine with new advancements almost every week.
Describe the landscape of the fight against cancer in our region? How has it changed in recent years, moving forward, etc.?
The Inland Northwest has significantly changed in the 16 years that I have lived here. We now have 2 medical schools in this region and multiple residency programs. Nationally, our area has “been discovered” as a wonderful place to live and to raise a family. Because of this, our population has grown, and our community medical services have also increased as a by-product. Today, our patients can participate in large national and international research projects with cutting-edge technology, diagnostic tools, and new drug treatments.
I frequently say to patients that “this isn’t the same cancer treatment that your grandmother or grandfather went through”. We utilize genetic fingerprinting of cancers for independent diagnostic predictors of outcome, and to tailor the treatment for individual patients. Our technology in radiation oncology allows us to highly customize treatment for each patient and their individual anatomy.
From your seat, what is the role that Community Cancer Fund (CCF) plays in the cancer community? Why is it important?
It has been an honor and pleasure to work with so many wonderful people in the community through CCF. Through its various projects and programs, CCF provides our region a massive level of support for so many patients and families dealing with the burden of a cancer diagnosis that cannot be easily measured. These important services wouldn’t otherwise be provided without CCF, and I have witnessed the deep impact these have had on individual families and lives of those undergoing cancer therapy. It is critical on so many levels.