Med School/Year Graduated: University of Kansas School of Medicine/2008
Years in Practice: 14
Surgical ergonomics is a focus of yours. What is it, in layperson’s terms?
Scientifically, it’s the study and practice of musculoskeletal interventions to reduce surgeon injury risk while operating. Personally, it’s the long-overdue awareness that surgeons must protect their own bodies from harm as much as they care for their patients’ bodies.
As a cancer doctor who came into the field through a surgical residency, how is the treatment you provide different from that of someone who came into the field through internal medicine and oncology?
As a surgical oncologist, I treat patients with surgery rather than chemotherapy or radiation. However, at Mayo Clinic, all the diagnostic physicians and oncologists work together as a multidisciplinary team with one goal in mind: curing cancer.
You’re a self-proclaimed “cancer nerd.” What about the disease and its treatment fascinates you?
How tumors develop, how they respond to therapy, why they manifest in different ways… I could go on and on. We have so much still to learn about this disease, and putting the pieces of the puzzle together is outright fascinating.
Are certain procedures “easier” than others, comparatively? What makes a situation straightforward vs. more complex and challenging?
We spend hours planning the steps of surgeries, looking at imaging, considering complex anatomy and anticipating challenges, particularly when tumors are in difficult locations. Thankfully, when you work with an amazing OR team, even the complex can be straightforward!
What innovations in your field excite you the most?
Recently, we’ve been very aggressive with our surgical resections, or removals, because of advances in preoperative therapies, particularly for pancreas and liver cancer patients. Watching patients fill up with the hope of being cancer-free is the most exciting part of oncology for sure.
You have by far the coolest and most repeatable name of any Top Doc profile this year. Is there a story behind Chee-Chee?
Ha! Thanks a lot to my parents for giving me a name that is unforgettable. My name is a Chinese word that, when combined with my middle name, Hwei, means “Hope and Prayer for Understanding.”
What kind of hobbies and interests do you have outside medicine? We hear you’re a solid violinist.
Yes! I was a violinist before I was a surgeon, and today music is my No. 1 way to beat stress. Recently, my husband, kids and I have been keeping our sourdough starter alive and desperately trying to get our orchids to rebloom.
Name the best depiction of your field in TV or film that you’ve ever seen.
Scrubs. Dr. Cox was really a surgeon in my mind.
What are you watching on Netflix these days?
We’ve been watching The Amazing Race starting from the very first season. Just in case any casting directors are reading: My husband and I would be totally up for an audition!
“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”
Developing perfumes as a chemist. My college research was geared toward this goal and my main project involved surgery on rats. However, I fell in love with operating and realized I was meant to be a surgeon.