October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to reflect on the fact that at least 250,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Almost 20,000 of these new diagnoses will be in the state of Texas.
Tara Kaufmann, M.D., recently joined the Livestrong Cancer Institutes as an assistant professor in the Department of Oncology and as a practicing physician at UT Health Austin. Board-certified in palliative medicine, Kaufmann is the first medical oncologist at UT Health Austin to focus on breast cancer.
I spoke with Kaufmann about her journey to Dell Medical School and her plans for her work in Austin.
What first got you interested in oncology and palliative care?
At the University of California at San Francisco, I gained clinical exposure as a first-year medical student. This made me realize that I view medicine through a palliative lens, which focuses on providing patient-centered care to optimize quality of life and the care experience. For me, oncology and palliative care are a calling. I want to take care of patients during serious illnesses and in their times of deepest need.
My research mission and clinical philosophy stems from this focus. Early supportive care and palliative care interventions improve health care outcomes for patients with cancer. Oncology patients are living longer with metastatic disease as therapies improve, so it’s becoming more important to deliver excellent supportive care during cancer treatment.
What brought you to the Livestrong Cancer Institutes in Austin?
Since I just completed my medical oncology fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, it’s a wonderful opportunity to come to the LCI. I’m passionate about responding to the unique needs of women with breast cancer and wanted to work with a team that’s innovating the delivery of cancer care to improve the patient experience. I look forward to collaborating with the community of breast cancer specialists here in Austin.
I also really admire S. Gail Eckhardt, M.D., as both as a leader and as a mentor for women. I’m excited to work with her at an up-and-coming cancer center and help build an innovative model of care delivery.
What do you plan to do here clinically and in terms of research?
I plan to build an oncology practice for patients with breast cancer from the Austin area. At the LCI, we’re well-connected within the academic space to provide second opinions regarding breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
My research focuses on improving the delivery of early supportive care services for oncology patients. The LCI is built around the CaLM model of care, so its culture is focused on integrated, patient-centered, comprehensive care. We’re interested in studying how to provide timely supportive care for patients. We also want to export what we build in an academic setting and bring it to the community — and to underserved patient populations — with the long-term vision that all patients diagnosed with cancer will have access to this type of care.