Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering which specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Today's post is on why Dr. Amani Jambhekar chose breast surgical oncology and why it is a great field.
Most recently, I told a wonderful United Airlines flight attendant this story.
I was on a flight from Houston to New York and making a TikTok video about a recent NPR article which claimed hair dye increased the risk of breast cancer. A flight attendant saw me adding the text to the video and asked, “Is it true?? Does dyeing my hair increase the risk of breast cancer?” I was quick to inform her I was a surgical oncologist and the study had many limitations. In my field we practice evidence based medicine. With the flawed results of this study in mind, I wasn’t going to recommend women stop doing something which makes them feel confident and beautiful.
She accepted this answer and circled back around to me later and asked why I had chosen this field. My reason relates to the video I was making: I wanted to practice evidence based medicine. In my general surgery residency I ordered many tests and medications just because “that’s how we do things.” Tradition and hierarchy are steeped into the culture of surgery and evidence based practice is hard to infuse into a hospital where things have been running the same way for years. I discovered my love for evidence based medicine as a second year resident when I started conducting my own research on trauma patients. I was teased heavily because I refused to read any surgical textbooks since the data was already several years old. Every question I had I would answer with a literature search. And I passed the written and oral boards with this strategy! Besides trauma and critical care, surgical oncology was the only other surgical field in which treatment was largely based on nationwide studies and NCCN guidelines to bring the standard of care to every patient. I knew this was the field for me. I did apply for surgical oncology but as I only had opportunities to do trauma and bariatric research, I didn’t receive enough interviews to match.
Initially I was crestfallen but after seeking feedback from various program directors I realized that many of them focus on breast and skin cancer anyways because other surgeons are experts in other areas - for example thoracic surgeons do lung cancer resections and colorectal surgeons do colon cancer resections. I reapplied to breast surgical oncology and received interviews from almost every program in the country. It was a sign. This is what I was meant to do. I was lucky enough to match at Columbia and my program supported me pursuing my MBA simultaneously from IU Kelley School of Business.
Now I get to take care of mostly female patients and explain their cancer to them. We review the literature together and share decision making. I also get to do a variety of office procedures. When my patients wake up, I’m the one who tells them they no longer have cancer. I also have the flexibility to finish my MBA and lead my team to educate and empower women in all stages of their lives - whether they’re my patients, my patient’s grandkids who want to become doctors, or my junior and senior colleagues at the hospital and in the office.
So if you’re so excited about evidence based medicine you’re making TikToks about it on an airplane, breast surgical oncology is for you. There is no field with greater commitment to data based guidelines. And you will get to cure cancer and arm women with information - one patient (or stranger) at a time!