UK welcomes new member to Surgical Oncology team

In late July, Dr. Michael J. Cavnar commenced his clinical practice in Surgical Oncology and General Surgery as a faculty member with the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center and the Department of Surgery.

Earlier in 2017, Dr. Cavnar completed a two year fellowship in Complex General Surgical Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He had previously completed three years of laboratory research at the same institution under the guidance of Dr. Ronald DeMatteo through the Surgical Oncology Research Training Program. According to Dr. Cavnar, it was that experience which fueled his passion and led him to pursue the specialty as the focus of his fellowship training.

He notes that it is especially gratifying to begin his professional practice in Surgical Oncology at UK’s Markey Cancer Center.

“The University of Kentucky has an excellent reputation in various types of cancer surgery and in leading medical research. It’s a privilege to be invited to practice here.”

Although his practice will cover a range of oncological procedures, Cavnar’s interests include treating cancers of the liver, biliary tract, pancreas, and upper GI tract, as well as abdominal sarcomas. His clinical research during fellowship at MSKCC focused on gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), which is most common type of sarcoma and can occur throughout the GI tract. He hopes that his expertise in this tumor can help attract these patients to UK.

Dr. Cavnar is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. While his father worked as a computer scientist in the tech-oriented area around the University of Michigan, his mother busied herself with raising seven children – six boys and one girl.

Dr. Cavnar is third in that line of siblings. Of the seven, he is the only one to have pursued a career as a physician and surgeon. His other siblings enjoy a wide range of careers include biomedical engineering, speech pathology, law, sound design, graphic design, with the youngest in a Master’s program studying English.

Growing up, Cavnar was an aspiring athlete. Throughout high school he was a three sport athlete, although football was his passion. After high school, he went on to play rugby at the University of Michigan and later at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. Eventually, he gave up contact sports for distance racing through the New York Road Runners, competing in numerous marathons and half marathons.

These days, however, it’s no longer about being competitive. “My sports involvement is now just about keeping fit and healthy,” he commented.

Dr. Cavnar’s wife, Audra Ewing, is a classically trained actor, having graduated from the Idyllwild Arts Academy and the Theater program at the University of Michigan. Prior to coming to Lexington, she enjoyed a ten year career in theater production. Together they are raising their two children. The eldest is four and their youngest is nearly 2.