Born to Fight
“A cancer diagnosis gives you a sense of loss of control. You cannot control what your doctor will recommend and you might not want to fight, but it’s your only choice. Bravery without choice. The only control you have is showing up to fight. So show up.”
Dr. Emily Marcinkowski knew she wanted to be a doctor when she was just eight years old. By the time she was ten, she knew she wanted to be a surgeon. The daughter of an OR nurse, she got to tag along at the hospital and was fascinated with medicine from an early age.
The more Dr. Marcinkowski learned about the field, the more she loved it. By the time she completed medical school, she knew she wanted to be not just a surgeon, but a surgical oncologist.
“The relationships we make with cancer patients—we follow these people for five years, if not more. You become part of their life, you see them progress. Surgeons aren’t just people who swoop in, save the day, and never see their patients again. I loved being able to walk alongside patients.”
Following five years of general surgery training and a two-year fellowship in complex surgical oncology, Dr. Marcinkowski started her career at UK Markey Cancer Center in 2016. Since then, she’s walked alongside hundreds of breast cancer patients, working with them through the challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“Cancer takes away all your control. But with breast cancer, patients have choices. I get to help them decide how they feel about their breasts. It’s truly personalized care for each patient.”
The personalized, interdisciplinary approach UK HealthCare takes to cancer care is part of what Dr. Marcinkowski loves about her job. “I never did team sports, but this is my surrogate for it. We all provide different levels of expertise for this one patient.”
Dr. Marcinkowski is part of a new generation of leaders in the field of cancer care. Dr. Patrick McGrath, her mentor, describes her as “Knocking it out of the park. She’s an outstanding teacher, surgeon and leader.”
“I never want my patients to feel like a number, like they’re just another part of my day,” said Dr. Marcinkowski. “I want you to feel important. And I want you to know how much I care.”