14 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R
GROWING up in Birmingham, John Michael Straughn Jr., M.D., watched his father practicing as an ob-gyn and knew he wanted to follow in his namesake s footsteps. At the time, he didn t know how closely he would follow. After studying psychol- ogy at Princeton, Dr. Straughn returned to his Birmingham roots to begin his medi- cal career, starting with his medical degree from the School of Medicine at UAB. He completed his residency and his fellowship at UAB, and given the opportunity to stay on, he joined the Cancer Center in 2003 as an associate scientist. He quickly rose through the ranks and in 2009 was appointed fellow- ship director of the Cancer Center s Division of Gynecologic Oncology. Birmingham is home, Dr. Straughn says. It s really been my plan the whole time. My family s here.
That family is a family of ob-gyns. In addi- tion to his father, Dr. Straughn s wife, Heidi, whom he met during residency at UAB, is
also a practicing ob-gyn at a Birmingham hospital. Although his father the inspiration for his career worked as a general ob-gyn, Dr. Straughn pursued the cancer aspect of gynecology because of his experience during the four-year training process.
Ultimately, I thought cancer patients were the most appealing to take care of, Dr. Straughn says. They re always so grateful for what you do for them, so appreciative of even the little things that you do for them. Cancer patients are easy to take care of.
As a gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Straughn has the particular privilege of walking his patients through their entire journey with cancer. Most oncology physicians either perform surgery or oversee chemotherapy or cancer care. Gynecologic oncology is one of the few specialties in which the doctor has the opportunity to treat the patient through each phase. Dr. Straughn meets his patients with diagnosis, performs any surgery neces-
sary and then administers their chemother- apy. This opportunity to be with the patient through each stage affords Dr. Straughn a lot of time with his patients. Because of this, he says he has formed special relationships with many of them.
We never forget their journey, what they went through or what we did to help them, he says. I can remember hundreds of patients by name, what type of cancer they had and what they experienced.
IMPROVING CANCER CARE Although Dr. Straughn finds that treat-
ing his patients is a rewarding experience, the challenge of finding an effective treat- ment and the pressure of watching patients struggle can be disheartening. When he feels discouraged, he tries to focus on the posi- tive aspects improvements he s seen in each patient s life, whether it was extending their life for a certain period of time, helping them
UAB Comprehensive CAnCer Center salutes J. Michael straughn, M.D., fellow-
ship Director of the uaB Division of gynecologic oncology anD uaB
coMprehensive cancer center scientist. in 2011, Dr. straughn receiveD
the awarD of excellence in surgical eDucation, the council on resiDent
eDucation in oBstetrics anD gynecology national faculty awarD, anD
the society of gynecologic oncology presiDential awarD anD was
naMeD aMong the Best Doctors in aMerica. he currently serves as vice
chair of the alaBaMa association for aMerican college of oBstetrics
anD gynecology. Dr. straughn recently was electeD to the BoarD of the
alaBaMa cancer congress.
J. MICHAEL STRAUGHN B Y K I M B E R L E E B R O O K S