Two women oncologists speak on new jobs, children

January 13, 2022

5 minutes to read

Source / Disclosures


Healio Interviews

Lees and Puechl do not report any relevant financial information.

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There are many major life events that can be as exciting as they are demanding, such as starting the next stage of a career or having a child – two events that two fellow oncologists experienced at around the same time.

Healio spoke with Brittany F. Lees, MD, and Allison M. Puechl, MD, gynecological oncologists who recently started working at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute, about their experiences for Women in Oncology’s Women on the Move series.

Besides recently adding new members to their family in addition to a career change, they shared similar thoughts on why they turned to gynecological oncology during their medical training.

“For me, continuity of care with patients and getting to know them as people and as family members was really important,” Puechl told Healio in an interview. “In many surgical careers, often after you’ve operated and seen patients for their postoperative visit, you never see them again. Gynecological oncology was the perfect mix to be able to perform patients’ surgeries but also do their chemotherapy care or monitoring visits. You are able to not only be a surgeon, but also have those personal relationships with patients that so classically define our medical subspecialty.

Lees echoed the remark of being interested in caring for patients “at multiple points” throughout their lives.

“It was being able to care for women at a very difficult time in their lives, but also being with them through their cancer journey,” Lees said. “This is unique to gynecological oncology, as opposed to surgical oncology, in that we do their chemotherapy as well as their surgery, so we can really see them through their cancer journey.”

Next steps

Deciding where to settle after a scholarship or a residency is an important step in one’s professional career.

Lees, who recently had a son, and Puechl, who had twins and a toddler, took this step considering the area they would be moving to and how it would affect their entire family. .

“We rely heavily on our family for support because my husband and I have careers and so location was our first criteria for a job,” said Puechl, who completed his residency and fellowship at Duke University. . “Then I just wanted a place that allowed me to be clinically active – see a lot of patients – but also able to teach residents, have the potential to teach fellows, and pursue some degree of research. My work at Atrium has allowed me to do all of these things.

Although Puechl is already settled in the Southeast, Lees admitted that her time spent working in the cold north – she finished her scholarship at the University of Wisconsin – was partly the inspiration for the move to North Carolina. However, the most inspiring aspects for her were also a good clinical volume and the guarantee of a good network of mentors.

“I really wanted to be in a program that had mentors like Jubilee Brown, MARYLAND; R.Wendel Nauman, MARYLAND; Erine Crane, MD; and David Tait, MD, who have been here for many years to provide this mentorship and continue to help me grow as a physician,” Lees said. “Then I wanted to be able to teach. I love teaching so it was important for me to have residents and hopefully soon a scholarship here.

Balancing roles

Women in oncology often face the need to balance the different roles in their lives, such as finding time for both career development and caregiving duties, as well as relocations or personal interests. This has been especially true for Lees and Puechl, who began their faculty positions at the Levine Cancer Institute during the pandemic and with babies at home.

Both women said they were well-informed during medical school and early in their careers about developing and maintaining work-life balance, but maneuvering two parts of a life is always complicated.

“We really focused on balance, balance, balance, and I think that negatively impacts women in some ways because balance doesn’t exist,” Lees said. “Sometimes your career takes up more of your time and other times your family takes up more of your time, and you really have to try delicately to figure out what’s most important to you and your family at what times. and just know that it’s never perfect.

Lees added that doctors can often strive to be perfectionists, but there’s no one right way to do a thing.

“One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my mom, a lawyer, is that it’s not about the time you spend at home, it’s about what you do with that time,” said Lees. “There are days when I’m in the operating room until very late and I don’t come home. I realized that at different times in my life, I will be able to do more of one thing than another.

Puechl touched on a similar aspect of having an “ever-changing” schedule.

“There are periods – days, weeks or months – when work takes longer than others,” she said. “Day to day, I don’t have the perfect balance between work and family, but I try to focus on it as a big picture. At home, I try to put my phone and computer away to maximize the time I can spend with my family and ensure I’m fully present with them. Also, just trying to plan ahead helps. Knowing that if it’s a day or a week when I’m not as busy, I try to maximize the time spent with my family and make that time really count.

Advice for beginning oncologists

As they continue to make strides in their medical careers and continue to grow and nurture their families, Lees and Puechl said they recommend women in the early stages of their oncology career journey keep in mind. mind what is important to them personally while reaching out to others.

For Lees, that sometimes means having to say no to certain opportunities.

“It’s important to know yourself, know what you need, and make time for those things,” Lees said. “Look for opportunities that will benefit you in the long run and don’t be afraid to say no to things that you don’t think will benefit you. You don’t want to close every door when you start out because you’re overwhelmed, but it’s important to make sure you’re doing things that will lead to positive experiences in the future rather than taking on so much in the future. start because you’re afraid to say no.

Asking for help, Puechl stressed how important it can be both in the workplace and at home, when possible.

“It cannot be overstated how important it is to accept help and be able to ask for help, and if you can, to rent things if possible, to have someone to help cleaning the house or having someone watch the kids,” she said. “Moving to start a new job inherently comes with its own set of challenges, so I’ve tried to give myself some grace that some days are going to be more uncomfortable than others and to make sure I’m reaching out to my support system Ask for help and accept any help you are given.

For more information:

Brittany F. Lees, MD, can be contacted at

Allison M. Puechl, MD, can be contacted at

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