Before we entered the new year, we sadly had to say goodbye to many of our team members who have now moved onto their next big stage in life – retirement.
For Bob Siegel, MD, oncology and hematology program director at the Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center, becoming a doctor was a no-brainer for him and was something he had wanted to be for most of his childhood.
Practicing oncology, however? Well, that decision was a bit harder for him.
“Although I can remember wanting to be a doctor for most of my life, practicing oncology is something I came to very late,” he shares. “Even as a third- and fourth-year medical student, I avoided electives that involved cancer medicine. In fact, I avoided situations in which these hard conversations were expected.”
However, after deciding to pursue an internal medicine residency following medical school, the ability to avoid uncomfortable situations was no longer a possibility for Dr. Siegel. Whoever came in the door when he was on call became his responsibility.
So, after some initial discomfort, Dr. Siegel began to open up to what patients were saying and empathize in a way he previously couldn’t.
“Life-threatening illness has a way of making one appreciate things of significance that were underappreciated before, and minimize those unimportant things we spend way too much time thinking about,” he says. “From these patients I felt their honesty, their openness and their courage. They have always inspired me and have continued to do so as I face retirement.”
Dr. Siegel’s career with our ministry began nearly nine years ago, when the St. Francis Cancer Center was just an empty lot. He saw the oncology program transform from various departments scattered around the hospital’s campus to a singular building that would house all the care options patients could potentially need.
“The creation of the center made our treatment patient-focused,” Dr. Siegel explains. “We now could come to the patient and their family rather than have them run the gauntlet trying to see us in various locations.”
He continues, “We have also added state-of-the-art equipment in radiation oncology and kept pace with many of the wonderful and new therapeutics that have become available over the last nine years. Our research office has expanded and provides cutting-edge, novel treatments, some of which were available to our patients even prior to getting FDA approval.”
Throughout Dr. Siegel’s career, his goal was to lead a center that provided both compassionate and contemporary care, which is exactly what he was able to do with us at Bon Secours. He shares that being offered directorship of the St. Francis Cancer Center, where compassion and contemporary care were the mantra of the program, was the highlight of his career.
While excited about retirement, Dr. Siegel will miss many things about working at our ministry – and most importantly, his team members.
“I have never met a group of more compassionate and selfless individuals,” he says. “People who choose to work in oncology are self-selected. They know that the interactions can be remarkably uplifting, but they also know that the disease can cause immense sadness. Often, my staff members bear the brunt of patients’ emotional and familial baggage that is not shared in the brief visit with the doctor or nurse practitioner. Despite this, there remains a source of compassion and support for all the individuals they care for. They have been wonderful colleagues, and I will miss them all terribly.”
And now, Dr. Siegel will be spending more time with his wife as well as his seven (soon to be eight) grandchildren that live around the United States. We couldn’t be more thankful for Dr. Siegel’s time and dedication given to us throughout the years and wish him the best in this new chapter.
Learn more about the cancer care and oncology services we provide at Bon Secours.