For our latest Making the Rounds interview, we sat down with colon and rectal surgeon Dr. Sandra Beck. Dr. Beck is the head of colon and rectal surgery section at UK and the program director for the general surgery residency.
How did you become interested in medicine?
I actually started out in business in undergrad, and I realized I was helping all my friends in the sciences with their homework. I figured out pretty quickly I was in the wrong business. I explored just doing research, but realized that I actually really liked working with people. So, after doing a few years in research, I ended up going to medical school and then ended up as a surgeon.
What conditions do you treat?
We mainly treat diseases of the small bowel, colon, rectum and anus. That includes inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. And we deal with all the complications of those diseases.
We take care of patients with colon and rectal cancer, and we also take care of patients with diverticulitis or other benign diseases of the colon. And we also do things like hemorrhoids and infections around the anus.
What do you tell patients who are nervous or embarrassed about their condition?
We look at things in a very clinical sense, and it’s something we are trying to fix. So, don’t be afraid to come in and talk to us about things.
Also, colorectal surgeons have great senses of humor. We tend to be a lot of fun and we’re pretty nice people. But if you don’t want us to joke about things, we won’t. We’re sensitive, too.
What’s your favorite part of mentoring residents?
We have them for five years, and so it’s really neat to see them mature and to see what I call “the lights to go on.”
When you’re working with them in the OR at first, you can tell they’re not really seeing what you’re seeing. But then by the end of it all, they’ve matured into these great surgeons who I know can go out into their communities and be a real asset. It’s really very gratifying to see them mature in that way and to be able to be part of that.
What is your patient-care philosophy?
I try to approach it as if you are one of my family members. I try to be your quarterback, and if we need to coordinate care, I try to do that for you. But I also try to be the person you can come to to ask questions.
I think being a physician means being an educator, and I feel like we – me and the patient – need to be a good team. I need to educate you about your disease so that you know what you can do better. I’ll tell you what my role is, and then we work through the process together.
I think that’s one of the reasons my patients like me – I treat them like family. I try to make it feel like we’re all part of the same team. And then once we get you through treatment, you’re always part of the family.
Check out our video interview with Dr. Beck, where she talks more about the patient-first approach at UK HealthCare.
- Learn more about the UK Markey Cancer Center’s gastrointestinal cancer care team, which provides comprehensive care for patients with cancer of the colon, rectum, anus, liver, pancreas, stomach and esophagus.
- With other life events keeping her busy, Claudia Hall almost skipped a routine screening for colorectal cancer. She decided to keep the appointment. And it saved her life. Read Claudia’s story.