Sarah Hoffe, a radiation oncologist for 21st Century Oncology, talks about work, dealing with death, who has mentored her and more.
21st Century Oncology - Bradenton and Sarasota
Business profile: "As a female physician, my typical patient is a 60- to 70-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. One of my priorities to my patients is to explain the cancer and the way in which we deliver radiation in terms that can be easily understood. To accomplish this, I have designed a power point presentation as well as a slide show that I routinely give my patients. I had a patient last week thank me profusely for explaining to her the diagnosis she was facing. She had apparently been seen by three other physicians but she told me that I was the one who really took the time to help her understand."
Current Business Challenge: "Our group opened a new office in Bradenton last year. Our current challenge has been to get the message out to the community that we are here and that we have all the latest technology to offer. We believe in offering the best treatments available to our patients so that they don't feel like they have to leave our community to obtain state-of-the-art care."
Typical work week: Hoffe works 10 to 12 hours daily during the week, and she spends a lot of time on weekends catching up on dictation or reviewing treatment plans.
Why Radiation Oncology: "During my medical school training at the University of Vermont in Burlington, a family member went through radiation. I accompanied my relative to the treatments and was very impressed with the whole experience. The physician who took care of my relative was one of the most caring, compassionate doctors I had ever met and I was impressed with the specialty itself. To me it seemed very satisfying to be able to help someone through one of the most awful times of their life and to actually cure the cancer."
Professional mentors: The mentoring physicians on staff at Sloan Kettering: "They were strong clinical role models for me and influenced how I decided I wanted to practice medicine. What impressed me about my attending staff was their tremendous humility - here are some of the brightest, most successful, well-known cancer physicians in the country and yet they are humble, down to earth and well meaning."
Dealing with death: "As an oncologist, I have to face death every day. I see patients die of cancers that I can't cure. Failure is a very difficult part of our profession. Through my job, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the bravest people I have ever met. When you join hands with a patient and stare down death together, you very quickly realize what is important in life."
Philosophy, Ambitions, Passions
Personal mantra: "It's not what happens to you in life, it's what you do about it." Says Hoffe: "This implies that you are not a passive victim but that you can proactively handle whatever comes your way. My cancer patients cannot change their diagnosis but they can be assertive and seek the best treatment and care for their condition."
Stress Relief: Writing and foot reflexology. Hoffe also watches the television show "24" - "a necessary weekly adrenaline rush."
On her generation: Hoffe says that her generation's access to global communication and increased competition makes them a more dedicated work force with higher productivity and higher standards. "I think my generation has the enthusiasm to keep pushing the envelope and to keep exhausting all solutions. I like to think we are the 'think outside the box' crowd."
Long-term goals: Ultimately, Hoffe wants to combine her passion for writing with her medical practice. In the past year, she collaborated with a local physician to write a book chapter on cancer. She and her husband also just completed their first children's book that they are trying to get published. "My field is very technical so I need to continue to stay ahead of the latest developments but at the same time, I never want to lose sight of the human cost of cancer. Writing about this binds me to my patients and allows me to transcend the sadness."
Most influential book: "Blind Eye," by James B. Stewart, a non-fiction account of Dr. Michael Swango, a physician who was ultimately found to be harming the patients he was sworn to protect. "The book had tremendous influence on me because I was so impressed that for a non-fiction read, I could not put it down. I truly admire those endowed with the 'gift of the pen' and a creative spirit. I hope one day to be able to succeed as a writer."
- Kendall Jones