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Case Study: Dr. Ann Wierman, medical oncologist
Story by Joseph Langdon
Cracking open medical mysteries requires a broad perspective like Dr. Wierman’s
“I like the mystery cases,” Dr. Ann Wierman says, the tough ones that defy easy explanation and require a more comprehensive approach.
The narrow view does not suit her nature. She first studied macrobiology and influenza and then went to med school for cardiology before she finally “fell in love” with hematology and oncology because it allows her to work across disciplines. “It really encompasses everything that’s great about internal medicine,” she says. “You need to know neurology, you need to know pulmonary, cardiology, GI (gastrointestinal), renal, GU (reproductive and urinary systems), musculoskeletal — it’s like being a well-rounded puzzle-solver.”
And it’s the perfect calling for the daughter of a nurse and a father who was a versatile “puzzle-solver” of his own. An efficiency expert by trade, her father worked in industries as disparate as aerospace in Mississippi and garment manufacturing in New Jersey.
Currently, Wierman serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University Of Nevada School Of Medicine and Section Chief of Medical Oncology at Mountain View Hospital but “I’m still a generalist,” she says, “so I see everything that walks in the door.” She likes to treat not just a range of patients, but the whole patient — who often has a range of issues. “It’s unusual that patients don’t have six or eight or nine different major medical things going on,” she says.
Her affiliation with Comprehensive Cancer Centers allows her access to cutting-edge research from Phase I & II clinical trials across the country, but she depends as much on old-fashioned clinical observation and patient care. “We have such a unique job in hematology/oncology,” Wierman says. “We treat the entire family and try to create a support system.” Especially in Las Vegas, she says, where many residents are away from their base of friends and relatives, “we become their support.”
And she takes pride in some of their remarkable recoveries. Last year, one of her patients ran the Boston Marathon — with leukemia. Another woman who came to Wierman with stage IV colon cancer recently completed an Ironman triathlon.
“With the right medicine, right focus, right attitude, you can get back your life,” Wierman says. But you can’t do it alone. “We need to be (our patients’) cheerleaders. We need more people to come out and say, I’m a survivor, I made it, now let me give back. Our patients and previous patients have a lot to share.”
Wierman finds her own support in mountain biking and hiking around her little getaway in Duck Creek, Utah. The drive, she says, is especially nice — it gives her a chance to listen to her tapes of Harvard’s Intensive Review of Internal Medicine and just “mellow out a bit.”
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