Alicia Huff Vinyard, DO ’11 | Behind the White Coat
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Alicia Huff Vinyard, DO ’11

January 9, 2019

Alicia Huff Vinyard, DO '11, smiling in her white coat in front of a medical facility.“In my fourth year of medical school, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I actually cried more that day because I found out I would have to take a leave from medical school and not graduate with my friends. At the time, that reality was harder than my diagnosis. I was so close to realizing my dream, and it was pretty devastating when I was told I wasn’t going to finish on time.  . . . I thought I would just power through my surgical rotation while getting my treatments. But those treatments were too intense. I took six months off. I had surgery, did radiation and chemotherapy. I was feeling better, but still had six weeks of daily radiation to go. I was really tired of just sitting around. So I did the radiation each day, then drove an hour to resume my surgery clerkship.  . . . When I returned to my surgery rotation, I thought treating women with breast cancer would make me uncomfortable. It was the exact opposite. I had empathy for them. I could explain things to them. I was one of them. After five years of surgical residency, I did a year-long breast oncology surgical fellowship at the University of Miami.  . . . I’ve been in my job for a year now and have come to realize that breast cancer surgery is something I’m always going to enjoy, inside and outside the OR. I like to motivate and encourage my patients. Cutting out cancer is amazing work. I spend a lot of time using advanced techniques to make good cosmetic outcomes. I often think about what I went through, and make the experience for them as easy as I can. But it’s not easy. It’s not easy at all.  . . . I push myself a lot for my patients. I rush imaging. I rush scheduling the surgery. I want to give them the comfort of knowing that I’m getting the cancer out as soon as possible. After surgically removing the cancer, the reward is getting to tell them: ‘You are cancer-free.’ .  . . I do surgery all day Wednesday and Friday. Monday, I have tumor board. I have administrative days and give lectures on surgery to hospital residents and medical students. I enjoy that dynamic—feeling the students’ enthusiasm and having the opportunity to teach them something new.  . . . To cope with stress, I load up my schedule so I can plan extra days off. I’m a big sports fan, too. I’m into the NFL and admittedly, I can sit my butt on the couch all weekend watching football.”