The most difficult aspect of Dr. Janet Ihde’s job is delivering results to patients that will alter their lives forever.
Board certified in general surgery, surgical oncology, and surgical critical care, Ihde serves as medical director for The Desert Comprehensive Breast Center at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, a position she has held since 1994. She also serves on the faculty at Loma Linda University.
Growing up in Apple Valley, Ihde discovered her chosen calling early on. When playing with her dolls, she would immobilize their legs in casts. Interested in pediatrics during high school and college, she shifted her focus to surgery when she attended medical school. After earning a medical degree in 1977 from Loma Linda University School of Medicine, she completed an internal medicine internship and a five-year residency in general surgery, also at Loma Linda.
While working in critical care at Loma Linda University Medical Center, her father developed metastatic melanoma, a serious and aggressive form of skin cancer. His struggle engendered in her a heightened interest in the surgical treatment of cancer; and the day after his funeral, she decided to apply for a fellowship offering specialized training in surgery and treatment of cancer patients.
"I applied to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and said to myself, ‘If I get into this specialty, I was meant to do [it].’ … I was surprised when I was accepted. I couldn’t turn it down."
Ihde considers completing the two-year surgical oncology fellowship in 1990 her greatest accomplishment to date; at the time, the program accepted only five fellows per year.
"We worked with the most intelligent and most accomplished cancer surgeons in the world," she says. "We had to present two subjects nationally, publish papers, and learn statistics. It was so rigorous that each floor specialized in a different cancer. We rotated through these specialties and became super specialists in the field."
The immense satisfaction that Ihde derives from practicing medicine is two-fold: centered on talking and getting to know her patients and applying technical advances in the treatment of different types of cancer.
"I have the pleasure of clinical practice, as well as going into the operating room and applying surgical skills," she says. Consequently, her schedule is varied and full; it includes two days of surgery and two days of clinical practice at the Breast Center. Additionally, she chairs a weekly evening conference during which patient cases are presented to a multidisciplinary team of physicians and health-care
Despite her busy schedule — she is also the mother of two 9-year-olds —Ihde enjoys reading, as well as drawing and painting in her home art studio.
She notes that one of the most important issues she faces is ensuring that her patients understand the correct treatment options that suit their individual cancer diagnosis. "I have to know which patients qualify for which options," she says. "My job is to make sure that they have the best information to make their own decision that will positively affect their survival."
— Jan Silver Maguire