October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we wanted to highlight a recent innovation in breast cancer treatment. Sandra Rorem, a veteran of the healthcare industry, is working to bring a game-changing breast cancer treatment to the United States that has been done in Canada since 2002. She is passionately working to make this innovative treatment available to women everywhere who are dealing with early stage breast cancer. Read what inspired her to bring this treatment to the US and why she thinks professional women today are not paying enough attention to their health.
4word: Tell our readers a little about yourself. You’ve had an extensive career in the healthcare industry. What drew you to this professional path?
Sandra: I’ve been in healthcare my entire career. I’ve had a nice and long run! I began in Minnesota in the Fairview Health System and spent 10 years there at various levels in the organization. In 1978, I was recruited out to Seattle due to my involvement in family medicine education and the graduate medical education program. Providence Health System, part of the University of Washington Family Medicine Residency Program, and their physician director expressed a desire to have me work with them, so I decided to go to Seattle for a couple of years and “try it out.” And of course, the rest is history! Six months into my time in Seattle, I knew there was no way I was going to leave.
After a couple of years in medical education, I went back to graduate school at the University of Washington and got an MBA, which then led me into hospital administration. I was an administrator at Providence for fourteen years, and that led naturally into a chief executive position in their primary care division which had 350 physicians. After five years as CEO, I retired from Providence at the age of 58.
Through my experience as CEO, I developed a real excitement for the idea of “plowing new business ground” and innovation. This self-realization was the main reason I decided to retire. I wanted to do more. I didn’t want to retire to not do anything. I love innovation in healthcare, so after I retired, I started working with startups or “early age companies.” There’s such an exhilaration to working with these companies because it’s always risky, and you never know if it will work.
While working with these young companies, I was also involved in consulting. For about three years, I served as a consultant for large institutions and small medical groups. I had a fantastic team around me that really helped me spread my impact. It was during my time as a consultant that I was introduced to the Breast Microseed Treatment. From day one, I knew this was something women should have available to them, so I began my work to bring it from Canada into the US.
It took a couple of years to get everything organized and to buy the Intellectual Property and Procedure patents. In May, 2014 two colleagues and I founded Concure Oncology – Breast Microseed Treatment Inc.. We are making great strides and commercializing in the US. We have a contract with a health system here in Seattle, and we are about through the training and credential stage.
Founding this company and bringing Breast Microseed Treatment really satiated my desire to innovate and “bring something new” to the healthcare system. I believe that, no matter your career, you always learn something important to your professional journey, and experience is cumulative. Every time you do something, you bring a richness from a background of trial and error, doing things right and making mistakes, so that with every new project , you’re better equipped to do it. Now, being involved with Concure Oncology, I feel my past experience is more than useful and has prepared me to be part of this exciting opportunity. This is definitely my favorite project, and I believe it will make the most significant contribution.
I was interested in medicine during a time when female doctors were not a prevalent presence in the healthcare system. I also really wanted to have a family, and that was not something that I was willing to give up in place of my professional pursuits. I wanted to do both, well before women were expected to do both. Even today, it hasn’t improved much! My daughter, also involved in the healthcare field, still comes up against struggles in the workplace.
What I love about 4word is the mission to show women they don’t have to limit themselves and “choose.” Women should be self-actualized! My children will attest to the fact that I’ve always pursued both a family and a career, and I’ve done it with the understanding that my family will always come first, yet I will also prioritize my job. I think they’d also tell you they never felt they didn’t get the time or attention they needed.
4word: Your current business venture involves a breakthrough breast cancer treatment. How did you get involved with this project? Has breast cancer impacted your life personally or someone close to you?
Sandra: The Breast Microseed Treatment is a procedure that we provide to doctors and radiation oncologists, which, in turn, provides women with early stage breast cancer the option of having a treatment, following their lumpectomy, that is a low-dose radiation, one hour and one time treatment. This allows them to go back to work the next day. With early stage breast cancer, this is truly an important option to have available for women in the US, especially professional women who have jobs and families they need to return to.
I’ve been in healthcare my entire career. I lost my mother to cancer. I’ve lost good friends to breast cancer. We all know of someone who has succumbed to this disease. Women, especially professional women, are afraid to go get their mammograms, not because they’re afraid of being told they have breast cancer, but because of the treatment they have ahead of them. When I saw this Breast Microseed Treatment, I thought about myself, as a professional woman, and realized that a treatment like this lessens the fear of being out of work long-term due to breast cancer treatment and recovery.
If you get your regular screenings, and breast cancer is found early, you can have this early treatment and then move on with your life. To a professional woman with a family, this is an invaluable option. By reducing women’s fear of screenings and possibly receiving the news they have breast cancer, we should see an upswing in more women getting on top of their health and facing this disease head-on.
We have received interest around the country to have this treatment available in more areas than just Seattle. At this point, our goal is to get the Breast Microseed Treatment into regional cancer treatment centers that women can travel to, have the procedure performed, and then travel home the next day. We’re talking with some centers on the East Coast and in California now, so we will hopefully see the treatment expanding its reach soon.
4word: Do women today pay enough attention to their health?
Sandra: I don’t think so. While some women will avoid taking care of their health because of fear, other women are just plain too busy. Women really make all the health decisions in their family, and it’s so important that women not neglect their own health! You have to make finding a good doctor for yourself a priority and make the commitment to make time for your health. A good doctor will be respectful of your needs and limits as a professional woman and will take strides to accommodate your needs when scheduling appointments or procedures.
My doctor understands I’m a busy working woman, and she respects that. I am able to make appointments well in advance with the understanding that I might have to change or cancel them. I’m able to correspond with her through email, which is a huge blessing for a busy woman like me! Having my doctor on board with my needs and helping me fit preventative care into my busy schedule is really helping me in the long-run, and is something that any professional woman could reap the benefits of.
Women need to invest the time in finding a good primary care physician, because if you aren’t healthy, you aren’t operating at your highest performance. This means your time in the workplace is affected, your time at home is affected, and overall, you’re limiting yourself and making things harder than they need to be.
4word: What are some tips you have for professional women to keep them on top of their health amidst their crazy lives?
- Take the time to “interview” doctors and find the one with a personality and bedside manner you respond well to. Don’t be afraid to leave a doctor that doesn’t make you feel like a valued patient!
- Find a doctor who respects your needs and your life stage.
- Keeping on top of your preventative care means you will stay on top of your current health status and be able to pinpoint and treat health problems more efficiently as they occur. Just make the time and find a doctor that respects the sacrifice you’re making with regards to your busy schedule.
- When you’re sick, go in right away. Don’t wait and get worse, unless you’re prepared to be out of work for an extended time to heal.
What are you doing to keep on top of your health? Is it a priority for you or have you let it fall to the wayside? Heed Sandra’s advice and take up the reins! If you’d like more information about Breast Microseed Treatment and how you or someone you know can take advantage of this treatment, visit their website!
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Sandra Rorem’s accomplished career spans over 35 years of executive leadership in all facets of healthcare delivery and health-related companies, including leading five start-up and early-stage ventures.
Sandra served as a Hospital Administrator at Providence Health System’s Cherry Hill Campus in Seattle for 18 years, followed by five years as Chief Executive Officer for Medalia Healthcare — a 350 physician group, formed by the merger of the Providence and Franciscan Health Systems primary care networks.
Following her tenure with the Providence Health System, Sandra shifted her focus to new ventures — primarily start-up and early stage, health-related companies. Over the last 16 years she has led five.
Sandra has served on numerous boards, is a Board Certified member and Diplomat in the American College of Health Care Executives and a member of the American College of Medical Practice Administrators. She holds an MBA from the University Of Washington Foster School Of Business.