Dr. Wendy Oatis Takes Oncology Seriously – LIVING WELL Magazine

Wendy Oatis, M.D., J.D. takes Oncology Seriously

Courtesy Memorial Health System, Colorado Springs LIVING WELL Magazine

Dr. Wendy Oatis, a medical oncologist, took a rather circuitous route before joining Memorial Health System last fall. The Denver native earned a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, practiced as a lawyer for 11 years in Washington, D.C., and then decided she wanted to become a doctor.

“It reminds me of a bookmark a friend gave to me that said, ‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been.’”  That quote, from the English novelist George Eliot, sums up Oatis’s path to Memorial Health System.

While celebrating the conclusion of a big case while she was a lawyer, Oatis wasn’t particularly jazzed about the favorable settlement for her client. When asked by a colleague why she wasn’t more excited, her reaction was: “I really think I should have been a doctor.’’

Her colleague then asked: “What’s stopping you?’’

Oatis went back to school, completed her medical training at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and her internship and residency in internal medicine at the University of Maryland Department of Internal Medicine. She completed her fellowship in hematology and oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

She wanted to become either a primary care physician or an oncologist because both would allow her the opportunity to build long-term relationships with patients.

She chose oncology, “because there is an added satisfaction of helping people through a very difficult time.’’

Dr. Oatis says she is excited to be at Memorial because it is a leader in cancer care, provides advanced technologies, participates in clinical research and provides quality care for the whole person – mind, body and spirit.

Memorial has comprehensive inpatient and outpatient services, treating a variety of adult and pediatric cancers and blood disorders, including: breast, prostate, lung, colon, leukemia, lymphoma, skin, gynecological, bladder, testicular, kidney and other cancers.

At the Mary Lou Beshears Breast Care Center, technicians use digital mammography, technology that is similar to your digital camera, to detect breast cancer. Digital mammography provides sharper images than film mammograms, and digital images are available almost instantaneously, as opposed to film, which has to be developed. Digital mammography allows a doctor to look at the image on a screen and adjust the contrast in color, to better detect a possible tumor. Digital mammography will detect the majority of breast cancers or abnormalities smaller than a grain of rice.

According to a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, digital mammography has been shown to be especially effective at detecting breast cancer in women who have dense breast tissue, are age 50 and older and are pre-menopausal or peri-menopausal.

Memorial’s Cancer Center is also the only health care provider in southern Colorado to offer Tomotherapy, a radiation therapy technology that provides highly focused radiation with CT imaging. The result is technology that provides extremely precise radiation treatment for a full range of cancerous tumors while reducing exposure to healthy tissue.

Doctors use three-dimensional images, such as CT and MRI scans and special software, to establish the precise location of the tumor and any regions at risk. TomoTherapy allows the ability to reradiate areas that have already received exhaustive levels of traditional radiation therapy.

Memorial also offers a host of integrative therapies for patients. These techniques blend proven medical techniques with evidence-based complementary care. Melding traditional medical care with the healing arts, including acupuncture and massage therapy, can help decrease stress, strengthen the immune system, reduce pain and speed recovery. This holistic approach treats each patient for balance and wellness of mind, body and spirit.

Dr. Oatis says she finds tremendous human strength in her cancer patients.

“What they’re willing to endure with the hope of a better life, greater quality of life, more time with their families – that is compelling,’’ she says. “A cancer diagnosis puts things in perspective.  People start to focus on what’s most important for them in their lives.’’

Dr. Oatis is also proficient in conversational Spanish.