MAKING THE ROUNDS: Father's battle with cancer shaped this surgical oncologist's patient care philosophy
This week, we sat down with Dr. Michael Cavnar of the UK Markey Cancer Center to talk about why he decided to become a doctor, his patient care philosophy and more. Dr. Cavnar came to UK HealthCare in July 2017 as a surgical oncologist, and his interests include treating cancers of the liver, biliary tract, pancreas, stomach and small intestine, as well as abdominal sarcomas.
What drew you to surgical oncology?
I think the first step was choosing surgery. Surgery has a more discrete problem that you start with: taking the tumor out, fixing a hernia, correcting an infection. To me, that was more appealing than other fields.
Within the field of surgery, surgical oncology is an interesting mix of the hardest and most complex surgeries. We also marry that with the biology of cancer, which is an incredibly complicated and a very fast-moving field.
What inspires you as a physician?
These are sick patients who have complicated problems and who require complicated solutions to those problems. I really get a lot of satisfaction out of helping those patients. Often, these patients have been run around from one doctor to another for a year and no one has figured out what they have. It feels good to be able to help them.
My own father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma while I was in medical school. I was a second-year medical student. We hadn't actually done the block on multiple myeloma yet. I told my instructor what the disease was, and I could see right away from his face that that was a terrible disease. Fortunately, along the time of his treatment, there were major advances made with multiple myeloma. He had several bone-marrow transplants and some chemo, and he's been cured. So I experienced some of those anxieties from a family member’s perspective.
What’s the best part of your work?
There are many cool parts of this job. It's a very cool feeling to go in for a technically complex operation that has many different steps and many different pitfalls and successfully navigating that operation without major bleeding or injuries to other structures. At the end of the day, you feel great about that.