2016 Top Doctor: Brandy Ficek, M.D.

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Profiles Issue: April 2016
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Palliative Medicine
Med School/Year Graduated: University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, 2008

Years in Practice: 5

photography by Steve Craft; Brandy Ficek, M.D.

What are the biggest misconceptions about your field?
Most people believe that palliative care is only for people facing death. In reality, however, we meet our patients at the time of diagnosis and support them through the entire trajectory of their illness, which can also include long-term survivorship.

What originally drew you to palliative care?
To me, palliative care is the purest form of medicine, centered completely around the patient. It is a privilege to get to know my patients and try to make each day, even their hardest days, a little brighter for them and their families.

How do you handle the emotional stress of your job?
It’s truly about perspective. I choose to focus on the small victories each day – a patient with less pain, a caregiver with more confidence, or a family spending quality time together. We can’t cure everything, but we can help everyone.

How has your job affected your own views on life and death?
I have learned that life is more about little day-to-day moments than big events. Recognizing that things can change in an instant helps me to appreciate all the blessings I have instead of wishing that I had more.   

Describe some of the “bucket list” experiences you’ve shared with your patients.
We have a Legacy program that helps patients focus on who they are outside of their illness, and through this I have witnessed many amazing occasions: paragliding, riding Harleys, weddings, dinner with astronauts and more smiles than I can count.   

What are some of the most effective methods of pain management for cancer patients?
The best method of controlling cancer pain is taking an individualized, comprehensive approach to each patient. Medications and interventions should be selected based on specific pain syndromes.  Balancing medication with relaxation techniques, physical therapy and other complementary treatments leads to more successful, longer-lasting relief.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
A teacher. My parents are both teachers and are not only the biggest influence in my life, but have touched so many others’ lives as well. They have always been the inspiration in everything I do.