Elizabeth M. Swisher, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Gynecologic cancers, genetics
I love the fact that I can do research that improves our understanding of the diseases I treat and then translate those discoveries into benefits for patients on a day-to-day basis.”
Tell us about an interaction with a patient that had a significant impact on you.
My first year out of medical training, I took care of two women with hereditary ovarian cancer. They ultimately died as a result of their disease, but my experiences with them shaped the trajectory of my career. Those women inspired me to better understand ovarian cancer so that we can predict who is at risk, preventing these cancers from developing or at least curing them if they do develop — so generations of women don’t succumb to this disease.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I am a board-certified oncologist who treats patients with gynecologic cancers. At SCCA, I serve as the medical director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Prevention Program. My interests include studying the genetics of gynecologic cancers and using that knowledge to assess cancer risk and personalize prevention strategies. I also have expertise in using minimally invasive surgery to treat cancer.
As the director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at UW Medicine, I help train the next generation of clinicians, surgeons and researchers in this field. In addition to teaching and working with patients, I conduct basic science and translational research, leading national and international trials in ovarian cancer. I co-lead the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Program for the Fred Hutch/University of Washington Cancer Consortium.
What do you enjoy about practicing oncology?
I always wanted to focus on oncology because I felt like this specialty really fit my idea of who a doctor was: someone who took care of patients with life-threatening diseases and helped them get through a difficult time in their lives. One of the things that really appeals to me about gynecologic oncology in particular is that I get to provide the whole breadth of care from surgery to chemotherapy to radiation and palliative care. I get to walk with patients throughout their whole therapeutic course, and I find that very rewarding.
University of California School of Medicine, San Diego
University of Washington
Washington University School of Medicine
Gynecologic Oncology, 2003; Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2001, American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology