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Five Questions: Dr. Jay Carlson

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Dr. Jay Carlson is one of fewer than 1,000 gynecologic oncologists in the country, and as of May 2, he calls St. John’s his professional home. His expertise as an Ob-Gyn and surgeon allows his patients fighting cancer to receive continual care from a single physician throughout treatment. Carlson, a retired Army colonel, worked as the Ob-Gyn consultant to the surgeon general at Walter Reed Army Medical Center 2000–04 before going into private practice.

Q: How did you come to practice in Springfield?
A: I am an avid outdoorsman and come from a family of avid outdoorsmen. When I retired from the Army, I moved to Grand Rapids, Mich. When the economy tanked in Michigan … and I looked at joining the large multispecialty group in Grand Rapids, my partners were not interested in making that transition. I moved to Des Moines, Iowa, so that I’d be close enough with a good job to be able to drive back and forth to see my family on the weekends. I had a colleague who told me about this job, and I came down and interviewed, and I was just extremely impressed with the organization.

Q: What steps has St. John’s made to fulfill your vision for comprehensive patient care?
A: The clinic needed some structural remodeling; I said that they had some equipment that needed to be updated, and that I do an awful lot of advanced robotic and microscopic stuff and there was going to need to be purchases of equipment for the operating room. I was looking to expand the service and bring a nurse practitioner with me. And I said, “If you are interested in me, I’m interested in the total package.” … They didn’t hesitate at all.

Q: What is a gynecologic oncologist and why are there so few in the nation?
A: A gynecologic oncologist is someone who has received three, maybe four years of additional training in the management of female cancers. What’s unique about a gynecologic oncologist is we are able to make the diagnosis, perform the surgery, prescribe the chemotherapy and follow the patient through their entire course. And so we have continuity of care that is different. After medical school, it’s a four-year residency in gynecology and then three to four years beyond that to do a fellowship in gynecologic oncology. There are 32 training programs in the country, and they generally only take one person per year.

Q: How did working at Walter Reed influence you professionally and personally?
A: I had many leadership roles at Walter Reed. I was the program director for the Department of Defense fellowship in gynecologic oncology. … I was involved with many national experts within Defense and then I was also the Ob-Gyn consultant to the surgeon general for the Army. So, any major health care decisions for women’s health came through my desk. (That included) policy changes such as converting the entire Army from what we call conventional pap smears to liquid-based pap smears.

Q: Before your first day on the job at St. John’s, you spoke at a fundraiser for GYN Cancers Alliance. How do you perceive this community’s commitment to support those affected by gynecologic cancers?
A: I have spoken nationally and internationally on gynecologic cancers. But what I found unique in this community is (GYN Cancers Alliance). Not only is the St. John’s administration motivated to get an aggressive, proactive program together on the hospital side, but the community has a passion for supporting women who have this type of cancer. The event that (GYNCA) held in April had approximately 500 attendees, and it was a great opportunity for women and family members to come together and help support the disease process. Gynecologic cancer, and really any cancer, is a family diagnosis. Seeing everyone come together in support really was awesome. In September, the foundation is hosting (Teal to Heal) that I’ll be participating in.[[In-content Ad]]

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