A Discussion with Dr. Caprice Greenberg, Associate Professor of Surgery
AlliedHealthWorld previously interviewed Dr. Jacob Greenberg about his use of Google Glass to record surgeries. We also had the opportunity to speak to his wife, Dr. Caprice Greenberg, associate professor of surgery and director of the Wisconsin Surgical Outcomes Research Program (WiSOR). In part 1 of our interview with Dr. Caprice Greenberg, she tells AHW how she became a surgeon and researcher and the amount of collaboration that goes on between doctors. Below is part 1 of Allied Health World's interview with Dr. Caprice Greenberg.
Jamar Ramos, AHW: So, first I would like for our audience to get to know you a little bit better. Would you mind telling me how you started on the path to becoming a surgeon?
Dr. Caprice Greenberg: I always wanted to be a doctor from the time that I was a child, and once I got to medical school, I really just felt like surgery was where I felt most at home, where I felt people were most like me, where I enjoyed spending my time. The ability to treat somebody and see an immediate result was very gratifying.
Ramos: And besides your husband, does anyone else in your family work in the medical field?
Dr. Greenberg: No, actually, my family is mostly police officers...my dad's a police officer in Chicago and my mom is an elementary school teacher, so I knew no doctors growing up.
Ramos: Wow, well if you're- if a lot of your family is, you know, police officers then it sounds like saving lives and helping people is something that runs in the family.
Dr. Greenberg: Yeah, I would say we're definitely a service-oriented family, that's for sure.
Ramos: All right. And you are an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, how do you balance teaching and performing surgeries?
Dr. Greenberg: So, I'm actually an associate professor...and so most of my time is actually spent on research, and I have a relatively limited clinical practice, limited to breast cancer, and then interact with residents in terms of teaching. Primarily in clinical settings and then again most of my educational activities are related to training people in terms of research.
Ramos: Is research something you wanted to do when you entered medical school? Or is it something that you just kind of stumbled into and felt that you had an affinity for?
Dr. Greenberg: That's an interesting question. I went to the University of Chicago for undergraduate and medical school, and that is an incredibly academic and research-oriented institution, and so it was all around me sort of from the time I started college. And in fact I started working in a basic science neurobiology lab my freshman year in college and worked in basic science all throughout college and medical school, and enjoyed the scientific inquiry part of it but didn't really enjoy the basic science part and really lacked a connection to what I was doing and what my interests were clinically. And then when I was in residency, I was at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, which is right next door to the Harvard School of Public Health, and I saw a number of folks in the medicine department going and getting masters' of public health and doing much more applied research in terms of health services research. And, as I had been moving along in my clinical training I had also just started realizing so many of the issues that were related to system performance and the way that we practice medicine, and really felt like this was an area which was very under-explored and so it was very interesting getting training in that. I took two years off from residency to do research and really found that that was incredibly satisfying for me, that I had an affinity for it and that I felt like that was where I could really change or really make an impact in the world was through doing research as opposed to working one patient at a time and being a busy clinical surgeon.
Ramos: When I think of doctors the first thing I think of is practicing doctors, people who practice medicine. That sort of seems disrespectful to what you're doing, because you are also practicing medicine, albeit in a different way. Do you notice a bit of a stigma toward doctors who research instead of perform surgeries or practice in other ways?
Dr. Greenberg: So I would say within the discipline research is very well respected, but I think it's also important to keep your hands in it clinically. For a variety of reasons I did take some time off from my clinical practice to focus on my research, but since going back and starting my clinical practice again I think it is important to continue to practice medicine so that you can really understand the problems to ask from a research standpoint. And the way that I do that to make sure that I am safe and I'm able to keep up with the most recent evidence is I keep my practice confined to breast cancer so that it's one disease, it's a limited number of procedures, and I'm able to feel very confident in what I do clinically but also be able to protect my time to do research. But I think that that struggle between research and clinical practice is one that a lot of people really struggle with, finding that balance.
Ramos: Are there other researchers that you work with in your clinical practice or do you like to do your own research yourself?
Dr. Greenberg: Oh no, my research is very collaborative. So, I collaborate with people in the school of the engineering, I collaborate with people in the school of education, I collaborate with people in biostatistics and informatics, in population sciences, in the department of medicine. That's sort of locally here, and then I also have a network of people that I work with nationally. I have a grant with folks at the University of Michigan, and I'm very involved with the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, which is one of the NCI Cancer Cooperative groups.
Ramos: OK, and is that sort of wide-ranging networking and helping out something that's ubiquitous, or is that something you'd like to see done more?
Dr. Greenberg: I think it's something that's starting to be done more. I think this concept of "big science" or "team science" is something that has gained a lot of traction, and I think NIH and other funding agencies really recognize the importance of these types of multidisciplinary collaborations, so I think that it's critical for sort of advancement that we learn to work across silos and across disciplinary lines. Would I say that it's the way the majority of people approach science? No, the majority of people that do kind of funded scientific research probably have at least a couple of collaborators. I probably have a bigger network than your average surgeon who does research, but I definitely think it's something that we are increasingly doing and I would love to see more of.
Please come back soon for part 2 of our interview with Dr. Greenberg, where she discusses her work with Google Glass in-depth.