Dr. Danielle Lipoff’s passion for surgery started at the young age of 14. While in her first science class in high school she learned about glycolysis and her passion was struck. Dr. Lipoff decided then and there, she was going to be a surgeon and began watching televised surgeries. “I was hooked; strangely the first surgery I watched was a mastectomy with reconstruction. I didn’t know in that moment I would be a breast surgeon, but, I knew that surgery was what I wanted to do with my life.”
“It felt like home.”
Dr. Lipoff also sat on Tumor Boards. “It was my favorite day; I knew immediately this is where I want to be. It felt like home.” What really drew Dr. Lipoff in was having a full team working together to treat a patient. “There is nothing like the hands on care that you give to your breast cancer patients. These are patients that you make an impression on their life and you actually do care for them in one of the scariest moments in their life.”
Supporting Patient Vulnerability
When Dr. Lipoff meets her patients for the first time they are waiting in their robe - she presents what their visit will look like. She then asks the patient to get dressed and has them along with their family go to a private room to talk more in-depth about their breast cancer diagnosis and treatment plan. “The reason I have them get dressed is this is a very vulnerable moment in their life. I couldn’t imagine talking about that part of my life not fully clothed. To help them feel some control and take away some of their vulnerabilities I have them get dressed and we walk away from the consult room. I would want that for my family members so I do that for my patients.”
“This is my Body and I am Comfortable In It”
When it comes to patient care, it is not just about the treatment for Dr. Lipoff, it is about having an open mind and listening to what is most important to the patient. She shared, “In a year they are going to care about what they look like to. I want to make them happy and comfortable in their own skin.” Dr. Lipoff is able to offer options many women do not know about such as an oncoplastic reduction where she can do a cancer surgery with plastic surgery to reduce the size of both breasts. In addition to their cancer treatment, it gives them the cosmetic result they want and takes weight off their neck, back, and shoulders.
“We want to give patients the best repair possible while treating the cancer so that when they look in the mirror they don’t say ‘I had breast cancer’ they say ‘this my body and I am comfortable in it.’ Being well trained in the different options is also important.”
“They all have an effect on my life.”
Dr. Lipoff shares the best part of being a breast surgeon, “When my patients come back in either post-op or at their four month visit and their happy with their cosmetic results, their happy with their treatments and the care they were provided, that they are tolerating the treatments well. It is that follow up. I am not God. I am not a miracle worker. It is really that gratitude from the patient and that makes me happy to do what I do. It really is an honor to care for these women whether they realize it or not, they all have an effect on my life.”
It Takes a Village
None of this work could be done without the efforts of a whole team. Dr. Lipoff gives a glimpse of the team she is proud to be a part of. “From the front desk to medical assistants to nurse navigators, schedulers, office staff, practice manager, it takes a village and they all do an exceptional job. It takes many men and women to help me care for these patients and that is just within the surgical oncology world. That doesn’t take into consideration the radiation oncology, medical oncology, radiology, pathology, plastic surgery, it is a huge well-oiled machine to provide the care patients need.”
A Message for Recently Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patients
“I validate your feelings. It is scary. A cancer diagnosis is scary and that is okay. You are allowed to be scared, you are allowed to breakdown. One step at a time. ”
Learn more about breast care and wellness.