Health Care Quarterly:

Fighting the good fight: S. El-Eid

Souzan El-Eid

Don’t let the lab coats and scrubs fool you. Those trappings might be functional, but they camouflage one of the greatest secret weapons a medical professional can possess — the heart of a warrior.

Health Care Quarterly asked the folks on the frontlines of health care to think about their work like its a battle — because it often is. What is their biggest foe, and — most important — what are the tools in their arsenal to help stay ahead?

I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon during a time of war. After high school, I came to the United States. I attended college and then medical school in Nebraska. It was in medical school that I fell in love with general surgery, primarily for one key reason: I was able to fix things. My subsequent fellowship was in critical care trauma, taking care of severely injured patients and managing complex trauma cases.

Eventually, I went into private practice in Upstate New York — I was the only female surgeon between Albany and Westchester. Women came in, quite often, with abnormal mammogram results and/or lumps in the breasts. Thus, I obtained additional training in ultrasound, mammography and stereotactic biopsy and became a breast surgeon.

These experiences — what I experienced firsthand growing up, in school and out in the field — have made me who I am to day.

My secret weapons are my ears. Among many things that treating patients with breast cancer has taught me it is this:

To listen to each and every woman. A breast cancer diagnosis is life changing and has life-long impacts. I used to get upset at women who waited much longer than they should have to seek help with a lump or pre-cancerous symptom. “Why wouldn’t they seek help?” I often asked myself.

Then, I would listen why. She has a sick child with terminal cancer. She has a husband that she takes care of with lymphoma. Or, she didn’t have the heart to tell her

children that Mom had cancer, too.

Although the reasoning can be difficult to grasp, I have learned to listen and understand. That’s why I am here: To listen and to help.