Behind the White Coat: A Day in the Life of a Breast Surgeon
Cynthia Plate, MD, is a Breast Surgeon with Adventist HealthCare. A breast health specialist and surgeon treat women of all ages for a variety of breast health conditions. Dr. Plate has been practicing breast surgery for over seven years and performs surgery at the new White Oak Medical Center and at Shady Grove Medical Center. We asked Dr. Plate what a day is like for her and gives insight on what life is like as a breast surgeon.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
Dr. Plate: Since I travel between two offices and two hospitals, my days vary. My work day usually begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 4 or 5 p.m. When I first wake up in the morning, I take my two dogs for a walk, eat some oatmeal for breakfast, get ready for work and then drive to the office or hospital. I usually see patients in the mornings and have surgeries in the afternoons at either Shady Grove Medical Center or White Oak Medical Center. Two days a week I attend what is called a “Tumor Board” which is a meeting with other doctors where we discuss the best possible cancer treatment options and care plans for patients. This allows us to come together and share knowledge.
WHAT TYPES OF PATIENTS DO YOU SEE?
Dr. Plate: My specialty is breast health, so I mainly see patients with breast health concerns. They could have breast pain, a lump or mass, or breast cancer. I even see women that are high-risk for breast cancer and we work together to develop a screening plan for early detection. I see about 15-20 patients during office hours and complete 6-8 surgeries between both hospitals weekly.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF YOUR DAY?
Dr. Plate: Any day that I have to tell someone they have breast cancer. I start off the same way by telling them, “the results are not what we wanted.” They don’t hear anything after that and immediately think the worst. Many women come in alone without the support of a family member or friend which makes it harder, but then I become support for them and that is what makes my job special, too. Often, I will invite our nurse navigator to help provide support. We become close to the women we treat and develop a relationship that, I hope, helps to heal them as much as any surgery I do.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH YOUR PATIENTS?
Dr. Plate: Our interactions. They are all grateful, sweet and kind. The hardest part of my day becomes the best part of my day because I get to talk to my patients about God. I tell them He’s not leaving, and He’s put this in their midst for a reason. I remind them about their faith and being prayerful.
I explain to my patients that “God puts obstacles in everyone’s life and for me, it would be easier if God would just tell me the end game and we can easily get through it. Unfortunately, God doesn’t work that way. However, always at your lowest points, He will be beside you until you need Him to carry you and then He’ll carry you forward.” My patients are completely crestfallen when they learn they have cancer. My focus is to bring them back to their faith and tell them God is on their side.
HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED ON THE LONG CHALLENGING DAYS?
Dr. Plate: Any inconvenience I have is nothing compared to what my patients are going through. I have my caffeine/soda and keep going. My grandmother was treated for breast cancer in Peru. She had a mastectomy and became depressed. She didn’t have opportunities like reconstruction or other resources. I focus on everything I can do for the women that entrust their care to me. I feel like I don’t have an excuse to dwell on my rough day.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO WHEN GOING TO WORK EACH DAY?
Dr. Plate: I love seeing my patients doing well after their treatment or surgery. While it’s all breast, each case is different, and you have to piece together what to do and how to proceed forward, it’s not always the same. I also love working with my staff and colleagues. One of my partners, Dr. Surupa Sen Gupta and I ping pong ideas off each other. I’m very thankful I was put here to help heal my patients. I believe I was placed here for a reason.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Dr. Plate: I play with my two dogs! I recently rescued a one year old, Sheltie Min Pin mix and have a 10-year-old Sheltie that keep me busy. I love soccer and play twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On the weekends, I spend time with my friends and family. I love hanging out with my five nieces. Each February, I volunteer for a medical mission to Honduras to give to their community.