IU School of Medicine recently welcomed nationally-known breast cancer surgeon Carla Fisher, MD, to the Department of Surgery faculty. After a six-year stint at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, while also serving as an instrumental component to the surgical staff at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Dr. Fisher will work to expand research efforts in the fields of breast cancer and breast disease. In addition, as a breast cancer researcher, she is a member of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Laboratories.
A Q&A with Dr. Fisher details her plans for the Department of Surgery as medical director of breast surgical oncology.
Tell us about your educational background.
I graduated with honors from Pennsylvania State University with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, followed by my Doctor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. I completed my residency training in general surgery at Medical University of South Carolina, and fellowship training in breast surgery at Washington University at St. Louis.
Tell us about your background and experience in surgery at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
At Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, I served as an assistant professor of surgery for six years. During this time, I also spent four years as part of the surgical staff at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center in the breast clinic. I was very active clinically, and saw approximately 300 new breast cancer patients in 2016 alone. In collaboration with leaders from the cancer center, and from medical and radiation oncology, I was also involved in the breast cancer pathway development for patients.
As an assistant professor of surgery, my main focus was on surgical education for medical students, residents and fellows. I served as the associate clerkship director for our medical student surgery rotation, as well as the fellowship director for the breast fellowship program. In addition, I was a part of the Clinical Competency Committee, which was designed to help evaluate residents in regard to ACGME milestones. From a research perspective, I was active in multiple clinical trials, sat on the Clinical Trials Review Committee for the cancer center, and authored over 20 research publications during my time at Penn.
What are your goals for breast cancer research at IU School of Medicine?
Through multidisciplinary collaboration and the robust development of a breast cancer data base, my goal is to increase surgical outcomes research and publications. I also feel that there are international opportunities for the Department of Surgery at IU School of Medicine to become a leader in research for surgical education, as well as clinical trials.
How do you see this research translating clinically for patients?
I believe that the current clinical breast care provided at the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center is excellent! Increasing our research profile at both IU Simon Cancer Center and IU School of Medicine allows us to showcase this program more at the national level. This may allow for additional funding or the expansion of clinical trials that would be available for patients. There is a powerful connection between research and education, and ultimately improving and providing the best clinical care to breast cancer patients in the Indianapolis community.
Why did you choose to become a part of the faculty at IU School of Medicine?
IU School of Medicine is a very large educational program that is affiliated with a strong and resourceful hospital system, IU Health. Having these resources for patients and faculty allow for a strong clinical and academic program, and I saw incredible opportunities. The Department of Surgery offers and amazing educational opportunity for students and residents, and that was something that really resonated with me given my background in education. I felt that it had the core components of what I was looking for in a place to work and continue to grow my career. Additionally, everyone I met while visiting campus was absolutely wonderful!
What do you hope to contribute to the overall missions of the Department of Surgery at IU School of Medicine?
I see opportunities to grow our educational profile in breast disease through local, national and international collaborations, and also with specialized training in breast disease. One of my main goals is to grow our research profile at the national level. The current clinical program is excellent with incredible faculty in radiology, plastic surgery, pathology, and medical and radiation oncology, and I just hope to continue to expand this program for women in the state of Indiana and beyond.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies and interests?
I love to eat and I am thoroughly enjoying the local restaurant scene here in Indianapolis. I also enjoy sports and look forward to attending a few Colts’ games. Overall, I’m a pretty active person, and have enjoyed working out and running downtown – I even signed up for the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon with some friends this November. If I’m not reading for work, I love to read a good book while sitting on my deck and enjoying a beautiful Indianapolis sunset.
What else would you like IU School of Medicine faculty, staff and students to know about you?
I’m really excited to be here and would love to meet anyone interested in surgery, cancer care or breast disease. I am also available to discuss any questions related to breast cancer or breast disease with other faculty and staff.