Pap smears reduce life-threatening cervical cancer by as much as 90%. Learn more in this video from Marcela del Carmen, MD, Gynecologic Oncologist at the Mass General Cancer Center.
Allison Gockley, MD, is a gynecologic oncologist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General Cancer Center. She graduated from Penn State College of Medicine, did her residency in the BWH/MGH Integrated Residency Program in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and completed the Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
She provides full-spectrum gynecologic oncology care for patients with pre-cancerous diagnoses, oncofertility concerns, and known cancer diagnoses which includes complex pelvic surgery, chemotherapy, and end-of-life care.
In this Q&A, Dr. Gockley talks about what drew her to this specialty, her passion for bridging the gap between the current standard of care and ongoing research, and her spunky furry friend at home. She sees patients at Mass General and Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
Q. What drew you to medicine and the specialty of gynecologic oncology?A. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a doctor. No one in my family is in medicine but I felt drawn to understanding how the body worked and why it sometimes didn’t. As I grew up my interest grew from curiosity to a strong commitment to caring for what makes us all human, and I want to care for people on the most basic human level.
As a lifelong athlete, I thought that I would be an orthopedic surgeon and help people achieve an active lifestyle, however when I had the opportunity as a medical student to work with the gynecologic oncology team, I knew almost immediately that this field was right for me. I fell in love with the patients and the privilege of leading them through complex care.
Q. What’s your patient care philosophy?A. I believe my role as a gynecologic oncologist is to provide each patient and their family with the best possible understanding of their condition and treatment options. Once we have decided together how best to proceed, I leverage my own expertise in conjunction with incredible multi-disciplinary teams including nursing, integrative medicine, social work, psycho-oncology care, palliative care and any other specialists necessary.
If a patient is diagnosed with gynecologic cancer and requires surgery, I have advanced training in laparoscopy, robotic surgery as well as open surgery (including debulking surgery for ovarian cancer) and vulvar/vaginal surgery. If a patient requires chemotherapy, I provide the primary treatment (neoadjuvant), “helper” follow-up therapy (adjuvant), and maintenance treatments. After diagnosis and treatment, I lead patients through surveillance and if necessary, provide and coordinate end of life care based on my patient’s needs and priorities.
I always share with my patients that they should never worry alone as a team member is always available to communicate and that there are no bonus points for suffering–we can work together to manage any side effects or issues that arise during treatment.
Q. What are you passionate about in your work?A. I am passionate about bridging the gap between the current standard of care and ongoing research that may improve outcomes for patients with gynecologic cancers. I am especially focused on how clinical trials can offer patients access to promising new therapies to increase cure rates and help patients live longer, happier, and healthier lives. I am involved in several national committees to help promote multi-institutional trials. I am also interested in expanding the oncofertility services we offer our patients to provide comprehensive, patient-focused care.
Q. What’s the most joyful part of your job?A. The most joyful part of my job is providing comfort in a time of fear, anxiety, and sometimes darkness for patients. Walking into a cancer center in and of itself is a difficult process and I celebrate successes in many forms with my patients. One of the most meaningful parts of gynecologic oncology care for me is being able to treat patients across the entire spectrum of their gynecologic oncology journey. Throughout each patient’s cancer journey we collectively define what is important and celebrate wins big and small.
Q. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A. Outside of work, I am a mother to two young children and one spunky French bulldog who always keep me on my toes. I enjoy running and eating pasta in equal measures and love sharing time with friends and family at home.
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