Education: University of Scranton – BS Biology
Drexel University College of Medicine –Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Post Graduate Training: Crozer Chester Medical Center, Internship
SUNY Upstate Medical University, Radiation Oncology Residency, Chief Resident
Family: Husband– Daniel Patrick Haggerty; Children– Daniel Patrick Haggerty Jr (2-years-old) and James Joseph Haggerty (1-year-old)
Residence: Scranton, PA
Why did you want to become a doctor? It was my dream ever since I was young. The older I got, the more interested I became. My parents encouraged and supported me, and I am so grateful. I love what I do and realize that I am very lucky to be able to say that.
Why oncology? I decided I wanted to become an oncologist during medical school because of the strong physician-patient relationships I observed in this specialty. It is a privilege to be able to help guide patients and families through such terrifying times. You end up developing very strong relationships with patients, which can make the job exceptionally hard as well.
What does it take to be an oncologist? You have to be able to deal with a lot of emotion. It is not uncommon for us to be celebrating with a family in one room, and then grieving with a family in the next. It takes empathy, patience and a big heart.
What’s changed in the oncology field? A lot of good things are happening on all fronts, including prevention, screening, early diagnosis and treatment. One example of a major change is the ability to preserve organs. Years ago, patients with larynx, bladder, breast, anal and extremity cancers underwent large surgical procedures that left them with significant functional impairment. Now, many patients with these types of cancers can be treated with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy in place of surgery.
Best lesson learned from school? It can take a long time to get where you’d like to be in your life. But if you’re willing to work hard, and remain dedicated, you’ll get there. I’ve also come to appreciate how important it is to have a strong support system. I have been born into, and married into great families. I have an incredibly supportive husband and two little boys who inspire me.
What’s a typical day? An early conference at NROC where I, and other physicians and staff discuss patient matters. I then spend the majority of my day seeing patients. I also spend time in our physics department working on radiation treatment plans for patients about to start treatment, discuss patient management with other providers, attend tumor boards, do procedures in the operating room and see hospital patients.
Are you currently involved in any research? We currently have more than 20 trials open and are always looking to enroll patients and open new trials. Clinical trial enrollment is so important to advance our understanding of cancer and to cure more patients.
How did you come to NROC? I was invited to shadow Dr. Brereton and quickly realized he was a special man and NROC was a special place. His mission, and NROC’s mission, resonated with me. It involves delivering world-class care in a compassionate, kind manner. We are available to our patients 24/7 and have put together a comprehensive team to address all of our patients needs. This includes nurses, radiation therapists, a dietician, social worker, dosimetrists, physicists, a therapy dog, secretaries, financial counselors, exercise class instructors, support groups and a clinical research coordinator.
Favorite part of NEPA? This is home to me. It’s where I grew up; where my husband grew up. Between the two of us, we have 10 siblings and over 30 nieces and nephews, most of whom still live in the area. It feels like you can’t go anywhere without running into someone you know. I love that! There’s a great sense of community. People really care about each other. So coming back home to practice was really a very natural decision.
Thoughts on NEPA’s health care? I can really only speak for the world of oncology, but I can assure you that good cancer care is available in our neighborhood. That’s not to say that I am opposed to second opinions. I actually encourage them because it gives a patient confidence in his/her treatment decisions. Plus, two heads are always better than one! I would estimate that about 90 percent of patients can be treated right here. There are always unique circumstances. As providers, it is imperative that we recognize those situations and assist in out of town referrals.
Do you have a motto you share with patients? “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” The strength, courage, endurance and will to live that our patient’s possess is remarkable. As I watch each patient progress through treatment, I become so proud of them. It’s not easy. I often wonder, would I be so strong?
Advice for aspiring oncologists? The need for dedicated, caring and compassionate oncologists is great. The road is long and the challenges many, but it is an incredibly enjoyable, fulfilling and rewarding career.