Monday, July 27, 2015

UAB Women in Medicine: Claudia Hardy

Claudia Hardy is the program director for the Deep South Network, a National Cancer Institute Community Network Program Center grant awarded to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center. The mission of the Deep South Network is to eliminate cancer health disparities among underserved minorities in rural and urban areas across Alabama and Mississippi.

What responsibilities do you have in your position? What’s the day-to-day like? 
I’m a program director in the Cancer Center for community outreach. A lot of people only know me for the Deep South Network, but I do more than that! People don’t realize the complexity of things I’m responsible for. I have managed the Deep South Network for 15 years and serve as a communication liaison and work with investigators and scientists to develop randomized trials and qualitative research products, in addition to developing culturally appropriate outreach efforts.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of this job is the variety. It allows me to stay connected with real issues and helps me understand how to better work with researchers and scientists as they conduct research.

Were there any parts of getting to this point in your career that were difficult for you?
I never knew for certain at 18 what I wanted to do. My undergrad is in communications and my Master’s is in Public Administration. This job is tailor-made for me. Earning my undergrad degree was tough. I had a professor who told me I’d have a difficult time in my field, so I’m always up for a challenge. He retired last year and invited me to his retirement party. I got to tell him that I made a liar out of him, and he said I made him proud.

Do you have a hard time balancing work and personal life? How do you manage that?
I’m much better than where I was. Work will always be there. I’ve been here for 16 years. I travel to places and have to work some evenings and Saturdays. I’ve made relationships with vulnerable people that bleed into my personal life that I hold near my heart, particularly with minorities, where trust is not always automatic. These work relationships have become personal. But I think I’ve become much better at balancing. I just have to say to myself sometimes, “Hey, I’m off the clock!”

What advice do you have for young women trying to choose a career?
I’m always encouraging young women in particular to know what it is they want to do and it will pay off if you do work you’re called to do. It makes the tough times easier because you know in your heart this is what you’re meant to do.

Monday, July 20, 2015

UAB Women in Medicine: Gabrielle Rocque, M.D.

 Dr. Gabrielle Rocque completed her medical doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 2007, followed by residency training in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Hematology and Oncology, also at the University of Wisconsin. She serves as the medical director for the UAB Health System Cancer Community Network and the network’s patient navigator program, Patient Care Connect.  

What inspired you to become a doctor?
Rocque 2014 for webSeveral things. I had a lot of medical exposure.  My dad is an oncologist as well. He loved his patients. During medical school I loved making connections with patients as they go through their difficult time.

Did your father have anything to do with your decision?
My father didn’t pressure me to do medicine, but I saw how much he loved it and that’s where my interest began. He definitely encouraged me, but I never felt pressure. 
Did you see any differences in how you were treated going through medical school as opposed to your male peers?
As a medical student I saw no major differences between how I was treated versus male students. But I had my child during residency and that was a whole other ballgame. While it was a challenge, I think being a mother gave me a different perspective on many of my patients. I treat people with breast cancer, so I see a lot of women with young children. They have to find balance too. I relate a lot to them.

I understand you wear many hats!
I enjoy being busy.  I am an Assistant Professor in Hematology & Oncology, specializing in breast cancer. I also am the medical director of the Patient Care Connect Program (navigation program) and the UAB Health System Cancer Community Network. I also am a volunteer for the ASCO Quality of Care Committee and the Chair of the Measures Task Force.

What do you like about working for the UAB Cancer Center?
We have such a unique interdisciplinary medical team. I work with so many and the ability to cross between disciplines to do amazing research is, well, amazing! I just work with great people who love what they’re doing.

Do you have any advice for young women interested in medicine?
Follow what you love! There are so many more opportunities if you’re pursuing what you love. It’s so easy to get caught up in what others want you to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

UAB Women in Medicine: Elizabeth Kvale, M.D.

Elizabeth Kvale, MD, grew up in Minnesota. She attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois to study biology and philosophy. She attended graduate school in philosophy at the University of Illinois, and then shifted to the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. She completed a residency in Family and Community Medicine at the University of Missouri, where she served as Chief Resident. After completing a service obligation in primary care in Dixon, Il, Dr. Kvale returned to academia to complete a 2-year research fellowship in palliative medicine at UAB.

Why did you decide to become a doctor?
I might not have had much of a choice! My mom is a nurse and my dad was a doctor. All of my family is either preachers or nurses. 

Why did you choose to establish yourself at UAB?
I did my fellowship here, and at first I had no intention of staying. But it’s a terrific environment for what I was focused on. I made a great choice. I’m inspired by my patients every day. They are so brave, beautiful and graceful. I feel fortunate to be a part of what they’re doing.

So you had a pretty positive experience going through medical school. Did you experience any struggles going through as a woman?
I would be lying if I said it was anything but awesome. We all know how lucky we are. I was never aware of any differences between me and my peers. I’m in a discipline were communication is very important. I think being a woman and having natural empathy is almost an advantage, in my case.

What kind of research are you doing right now?
Health services research. I’m particularly focused on how to deliver cancer care and palliative care to patients. There just aren’t enough palliative care specialists and I’m trying to figure out how to give patients the care they need.

I hear you participated in the first Cycliad last May! Why did you decide to do that?
True story. I decided to ride because I really think our navigators are helping people and that ultimately this fundraising effort has the potential to ensure that more cancer patients receive this support. Every event needs people to commit in the first year, and most often those are going to be people who really believe in the cause. My favorite part was getting to know the other 4 individuals who were willing to jump in and ride 1300 miles for this cause, and meeting people along the way that our program has touched and helped.

What kind of advice do you have for women interested in the medical field?
Stay tuned to your empathy and use it to your advantage. In science, it can be easily squashed, but try to stay tuned to it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

UAB Women in Medicine:Cheri Canon, M.D., F.A.C.R.

Cheri Canon, M.D., F.A.C.R. completed her undergraduate training at the University of Texas at Austin, followed by medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch. After completing her residency training in Diagnostic Radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she joined the faculty in the abdominal imaging section.
Why did you decide to pursue medicine? 
Unlike so many of my colleagues, I cannot point to a moment when I knew I wanted to become a physician. I do remember wanting to be a veterinarian when I was in second grade. My mom saved an art project where I described being a vetranariun and that I would “make $3 an hour and cook and clean. This still makes me chuckle. During high school, I had a summer job with a family practitioner, Dr. Charles Tubbs. I started in the front office, filing, answering phones, etc. Before long, Dr. Tubbs took me under his wing and allowed me increasing responsibility with his patients such as taking vital signs, observing interviews, and even rounding with him in the hospital. I found this very exciting and was in awe of the relationship a physician has with their patient. The next summer I worked as a clerk in the intensive care unit of our community hospital. I was exposed to a completely different type of medicine, and loved it even more. I began college with the goal of medical school. I had always enjoyed science, so this seemed like a natural course. But I really can’t point to an “aha” moment. 
 What kind of research do you do? What are you working on right now? 
In my role as Chair of Radiology, my work is now administrative with some clinical care.  I have the responsibility for growing the research enterprise in Radiology, which is very exciting and challenging. It has been a steep learning curve, because my experience has been in clinical research, not basic science or translational research, yet most of my current faculty recruiting has concentrated in these areas.  
The cyclotron and Advanced Imaging Facility are remarkable and complex projects that will be transformative for UAB. Imaging biomarkers will be a key component for UAB’s personalized medicine platform. Because of the investment Alabama and UAB has made in these facilities, we are attracting top imaging researchers. In fact, just recently we recruited a husband and wife who will be a dynamic duo in basic science and translational research as well as in the cyclotron program.  It is a very exciting time for my department. 
 What kind of obstacles do you face being a woman pursuing in medicine? Did you face any as you were going to medical school?
I don’t remember challenges specifically relating to my being a woman. I’m sure they existed, but I have always tried to concentrate on things I can control. Most of my medical school classmates were men. Radiology is male-dominated; approximately 25 percent of current radiology residents are women. The number of practicing female radiologists is even less, and unfortunately, this trend is not improving. We need to make concerted efforts to increase diversity, not just gender diversity but diversity in every aspect. I know I appreciate the value of this and understand the importance of actively pursuing inclusivity. 
Medicine is challenging for men and women. Work/life balance is difficult. My husband is also a physician, and I am so fortunate that he has been willing to serve as a true co-parent when I became chair. I couldn’t have done this without him.   

Many doctors I've talked to stressed the difficulty in finding work-life balance. How do you go about achieving this? 
Most wouldn't think that I do achieve true balance, but I am closer than I was 10 years ago. I really try to keep work at work, and not let it encroach on family time. I no longer bring home a briefcase of papers and articles to read or review. I try not to check email too often, and I don't spend the entire weekend working.  Although I have not achieved the two week vacation without checking email level, I am much closer. I also now realize I must be a role model for my faculty, who also need this balance.  

What makes working with the Cancer Center different from working elsewhere 
It is truly a multidisciplinary team environment with amazingly bright physician-scientists and researchers and remarkable facilities. It is the ideal environment to find the cure for cancer. I am so proud to show faculty recruits and share the successes. 

 Do you have any advice for girls wanting to get into the medical field? 
Do what YOU want, not what you think others want you to do. Ignore stereotypes and don’t be afraid to be awesome. Work hard and blaze a trail for those behind you just like Elizabeth Blackwell [first female doctor in the U.S.] or Melson Barfield-Carter [first head of UAB's Department of Radiology] did for us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UAB Women in Medicine: Wendy Demark-Wahnefried. Ph.D., R.D.

Q&A With Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried 

Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., is professor and Webb Endowed Chair of Nutrition Sciences and the associate director for cancer prevention and control at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the medical field?
I had a desire to help people, but at the same time I wanted to pursue a career that was biology-driven.

What kind of research do you do? What are you working on right now?
 I am a nutrition-scientist. Currently, most of my work is dedicated to the development and testing of interventions 
to improve the overall health and functioning of cancer survivors. In addition, our laboratory is keenly interested in finding out how obesity drives more aggressive cancers and whether weight loss interventions can improve prognosis of both breast and prostate cancer.

What kind of obstacles do you face being a woman in the medical field? Did you face any as you were going to medical school?  
 Although I pursued a pre-med program at the University of Michigan, I ultimately decided to pursue a Ph.D. instead of an M.D. Over the course of my career I have worked in a variety of settings that range from the department of surgery at Duke where there were significantly fewer women, to those in which the gender composition was more balanced. While it may be more difficult for women to initially “be heard” in settings that are more male-dominant, I firmly believe that nothing speaks like success and if you do good work, and you are persistent, you will eventually be recognized. Most of the largest obstacles I have faced in my career are not because I am a woman, but rather due to other factors.

What do you like about working with the cancer center/for UAB?
UAB is the third cancer center under which I have worked. I started at Duke and was there for 17 years rising from a project manager to a full professor and then was recruited to MD Anderson Cancer Center, where I spent three years. I came to UAB and like working here because of the collaborative research environment, the great director [Dr. Ed Partridge] and that fact that at UAB, cancer is more than just a business and there is a true concern about the community.

Do you have any advice for girls wanting to get into the medical field?  
The medical field and particularly the research field is terrifically competitive. You really need to work hard, develop thick skin and keep trying. This is generic advice and applies for both males and females.