Dr. Ellen Cooke’s high school health careers class and her love of science set the stage for her to become a physician, but it was her personal experience with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and her love of team sports that propelled her toward radiation oncology.
“My mom was diagnosed with cancer during my first year of medical school, and I went through all of her chemotherapy and radiation treatments with her,” Dr. Cooke says. “Radiation oncology appealed to me because it was a good mix of medicine and physics, but also because of the team approach to treating patients.”
From Dr. Cooke’s perspective, the treatment team consists both of medical professionals who collaborate to develop and then deliver the best treatment course for patients, as well as the patients and their family and friends who will be at their side throughout the process.
“Patients almost always bring someone with them, and I enjoy getting to know their family and friends,” Dr. Cooke says. “Radiation oncology can be a single high dose, or a treatment course that is seven weeks or longer. We try to create a congenial, positive environment throughout the treatment.” Dr. Cooke chose to join Mercy’s team partially because she was impressed with the idea that she won’t have to consider patients’ insurance status when developing their treatment plans.
“I admire Mercy’s mission and approach to treating patients, and I’m excited about the commitment to expanding the technology and facilities,” she says. “Plus the team here – from the oncologists, surgeons and nurses to front desk staff who deal with all the intake paperwork – is dedicated to the patients’ outcome.”
So dedicated, in fact, that a large group meets every Monday to discuss pathology reports, review patient scans and talk about the treatment plan for individual patients. “Our patients are getting the benefit of all of these experts – not just that of their own physician,” Dr. Cooke says.
In addition to the professional attraction, Dr. Cooke was motivated to move her family to Fort Smith for personal reasons. She originally is from a small town in Texas, so she is now just a few hours from family. And, her great aunt lives here as well.
“It’s a great place to work and a great place to raise a family – lots of positives,” she says.