The Comprehensive Breast Center, located at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Washington Township, recently welcome two new breast surgeons to its team of physicians: Kristin Brill, MD, FACS, and Susanna M. Nazarian, MD, PhD, FACS. We spoke with Dr. Brill and Dr. Nazarian about their experiences in the medical field, and what they look forward to bringing to Jefferson Health - New Jersey.
One Passion, Two Stories
Dr. Brill and Dr. Nazarian are both passionate surgeons who have a deep desire to help their patients by providing the best care possible. However, their individual stories as healthcare professionals are very different.
Dr. Brill always knew she wanted to positively impact lives, but surprised herself when she became interested in surgery during medical school: “I didn’t think that I wanted to pursue surgery, so I ended up holding my surgical rotation until last. But I immediately fell in love with the art and science of surgery,” she says.
At the time of her training, Dr. Brill noticed there weren’t many surgeons specializing in breast surgery, despite breast cancer being so common. “I’m one of four daughters and I have three daughters of my own, so I’m very sensitive to women’s issues. Having that understanding definitely shaped my path in medicine,” Dr. Brill said. She was drawn to the nuances and treatment options for the different subtypes of breast cancer, as well as reconstructive techniques.
Dr. Nazarian was inspired to go into surgery because of her father, who has contributed greatly to the field of orthopedic surgery in his 46 years at the University of Washington in Seattle. But unlike Dr. Brill, Dr. Nazarian wasn’t immediately drawn to breast surgery. She spent her first eight years in practice as a transplant surgeon before deciding to take a different path.
“I loved my time as a transplant surgeon, but I was drawn to breast surgery because breast cancer affects so many people. Being a breast surgeon offers me the opportunity to have a closer relationship with my patients and their families that can extend over their lifetimes,” says Dr. Nazarian. “My fellowship in breast surgery provided me the skills and knowledge to join Dr. Brill and her colleagues at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center with the goal of providing comprehensive evaluation and individualized treatment for our patients.”
A Surgeon’s Important Role
When asked about their patient care philosophies, both doctors agreed that guiding patients through the decision-making process is important when it comes to surgical oncology. “Breast surgery is pretty unique because there are often multiple options that will deliver equal benefits to the patient,” says Dr. Nazarian. “So the patient's decision is paramount to guide and inform their treatment.”
The right decision for one patient might not be right for another, depending on genetic traits, personal preferences and multiple lifestyle factors. “It’s absolutely a collaborative process between physicians, the patient and their family,” says Dr. Brill. “We strive to know our patients personally, as well as understand the biology of the tumors, in order to present them with the best and most current treatment options.”
In order to provide optimal care for breast cancer patients, close teamwork is necessary among a variety of specialists—not only surgeons, but also radiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists and referring primary care physicians and gynecologists. Dr. Brill and Dr. Nazarian enjoy being in roles that allow them to coordinate this multidisciplinary care and form meaningful and long-lasting relationships with their patients.
“The most important part of my job involves educating my patients by putting things into perspective and forming a treatment plan that works for them,” says Dr. Brill. “They may come in, having heard the word ‘cancer,’ afraid they’re going to die, but I’m here to provide hope and a path toward recovery with science and compassion. I recognize that what they’re going through is very personal and emotional. As surgeons, we must address both the emotional and logistical needs of patients and their families.”
Jefferson’s Standard of Care
Jefferson Health physicians pride themselves on the high standard of care the health system brings to the region. “I feel supremely fortunate to be at Jefferson. Every person I’ve interacted with here is genuine and truly trying to use their talents for the greater good. There is a general culture of thoughtfulness and purpose-driven work with a sharp focus on what is best for the patient,” Dr. Nazarian said.
Both surgeons look forward to continuing that standard of care at the Comprehensive Breast Center. “Our goal is to ensure the Jefferson excellence in cancer care reaches our patients across the region through any one of our advanced care sites,” says Dr. Brill.
For Dr. Nazarian in particular, operating in a new landscape allows her to look at methods and procedures with a critical eye. “With a breadth of experience in transplant surgery, I’m coming into this role with a unique perspective. It allows me to look at things differently and question if we’re doing the best we can for each patient or if there may be new approaches to be considered,” she says.
Dr. Brill looks forward to bringing excellence to research and clinical trials in New Jersey, as well as the dense breast program because of the impact it can have on breast cancer survival rates. She is incredibly proud of the Jefferson breast imaging team—their expertise combined with the most current, innovative and advanced imaging techniques is not found anywhere else in the region. “The techniques performed at Jefferson can provide tremendous advantages for women at higher risk or those with dense breast tissue. We want more women to be aware that these programs exist,” says Dr. Brill.
Drs. Brill and Nazarian are now seeing patients at the Comprehensive Breast Center, located at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Washington Township. To make an appointment, call 856-218-2100.
For more information, visit: JeffersonHealth.org/NJcancer