Joanne Mortimer, M.D., knew early on that medicine was her career of choice. Little did she know that the strength of her cancer patients would steer her toward oncology.
Inspired to pursue medicine by a pediatrician in her family, City of Hope oncologist Joanne Mortimer, M.D., went to medical school figuring she’d be a family doctor.
“That was kind of the norm at the time,” she said. “There were no television shows about specialists; no ‘Marcus Welby, Oncologist’ type characters. It was about family practice.”
In her second year at Loyola Medical School, she entered an oncology rotation that changed her path.
“I thought the patients were the most remarkable, inspirational people,” she reminisced. “Every one of them was a heroic person who faced this unexpected adversity and made something positive out of it.”
Today, as vice chair and professor of medical oncology, she finds particular inspiration in breast cancer patients.
“I love working with women; they’re amazing people,” she said. “They get a diagnosis that is, at times, potentially fatal — and manage to get through it while still taking care of their families and kids, coming out the other side as stronger people.”
Their courage drives her not just to provide the most advanced care available, but also to search for new, potentially better treatments. Much of her work aims to uncover the role both natural and treatment-related hormones play in normal and tumor cells, so she can predict how the hormones will affect therapy.
She also seeks to understand the unique challenges faced by breast cancer survivors so their long-term needs can be met.
“There are more than 3 million breast cancer survivors in this country,” she said. Growing that number, and giving them the best quality of life possible, may make her a family physician after all.
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