Surgical oncologist joins USC
By Jeff Stensland, email@example.com, 803-777-3686
Dr. Amanda Arrington is the newest faculty addition to the USC School of Medicine’s department of surgery. Arrington, a board certified surgical oncologist who recently completed a fellowship in California, will treat patients with variety of cancers at Palmetto Health Richland. Her research focuses on cancer survivorship disparities based on socioeconomics and location, a topic that hits close to home and inspired her career.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Princeton, West Virginia, a small town in southern part of the state with a population of about 6,000, at most. Most of my family still lives in West Virginia, actually.
Q: What motivated you to want to be a physician?
A: Growing up, I was always interested in math and science. Anatomy fascinated me and I always said I would be a chemist to make new medicines or a doctor. In high school, I was able to shadow a local ENT surgeon and when I walked into the operating room to observe a surgery, I knew that was where I belonged.
Q: Medicine’s a broad field. Why focus on oncology?
A: My career choices were truly impacted by my life experiences. My grandmother apparently ignored a lump in her breast for a long time and when she finally went to the doctor it was diagnosed as metastatic breast cancer. The physicians in the small town where we lived told her there were no options for her--he was not aware of any trials, and that she should ‘go home and get her affairs in order.’ That insensitivity, as well as lack of knowledge of the latest treatment strategies, was not acceptable.
From that point on, my family drove three hours, one way, to the nearest university medical center --Wake Forest--for recommendations and treatment. All of the time that I would spend driving home from college and sitting with my grandmother during her chemotherapy infusions helped form a true bond between us. Though she did pass from her liver metastasis, the entire experience was eye-opening for me. Being able to help educate the public on the importance of going to the doctor in the first place, and treating cancer at an earlier, and hopefully curative, stage is important to me. Being able to offer recommendations and cancer surgeries closer to home where family support is stronger and recovery is quicker is critical.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
A: Seeing patients and their families when the cancer surgery is successful or they have no evidence of disease after chemotherapy. Having a patient or family member smile and hug you after their cancer surgery is successful is a tremendous feeling.
Q: How about the most challenging?
A: The most challenging part of surgical oncology is to have to deliver the bad news. For example, not all cancers are resectable, unfortunately. In those cases, knowing my limitations and not offering surgery is hard, especially when the patient and family want surgery at any cost. Having to tell the patient that the cancer has recurred or has metastasized also is difficult.
Q: What attracted you to USC?
A: After completing my fellowship, I wanted to continue in academic surgery and at the same time be in a community where I could bring complex cancer surgeries closer to home for patients and their families. I intend on building surgical oncology here at USC to provide the community with the convenience of complex cancer surgeries here in Columbia. I operate on esophageal, stomach, colon, liver cancers, pancreatic cancers, breast cancer, melanoma and sarcoma.
At an academic institution like USC, I’m also able to continue to pursue my research interests. I'm interested in health care disparities--access, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographic location--in relation to cancer and surgical outcomes.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I like to travel, read, work out and watch football--especially the Pittsburg Steelers--with my husband, an entrepreneur who I met when I lived in Minnesota.