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G. Varuni Kondagunta, MD

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Specialty: Medical Oncology

Orange Regional Medical Center

Catskill Regional Medical Center

Crystal Run Healthcare

 

Can you describe a perfect day at work?

When cancer is no longer an illness; that it has been eradicated as a disease; that there is no sickness and suffering.  I, of course, would need to find another career since I wouldn’t be needed as an oncologist anymore, but I would happily do that! 

 

What made you decide to go into this challenging and often emotionally draining field?

I became interested in oncology early in medical school when I was exposed to the special relationship between oncologists and cancer patients. I witnessed how oncologists took care of the “whole patient” and was drawn to the field. It is a true privilege to take care of patients and their families during probably one of the toughest times in their lives. I also became very interested in the rapid pace of advancing science in the field of oncology; the mix of basic science and clinical research fascinated me and ultimately helped me to decide on oncology as a career. 

 

What do you think the future of breast cancer care will look like?

More and more personalized treatment. And, with earlier detection modalities, my hope is that we detect cancers at a microscopic level, so that we can treat early and with targeted treatments, so people will be “cured” before they even had any visible evidence of cancer. 

 

Can you share a moment that changed how you speak to patients?

A mentor of mine in medical school, when teaching us about taking a medical history said to “put the social history first.” Essentially, he was teaching us to know our patients; to know who they are, so we can take better care of them by forming a better doctor/patient relationship. Also, when I was a young physician, and my father was sick, seeing the other side of the medical system from the patient’s perspective helped me to realize how important this doctor/patient relationship truly is.

 

What are some misconceptions people have about your work?

That oncology is a depressing field and that it is “all sad.” It is an extremely emotionally difficult field for sure, but there are so many high points, as well. I am so privileged to see the strength in people and the amazing courage that people and their families have. Also, many cancers are curable and treatable; we have patients that we see as long-term follow up visits. These visits are such a joy for me, to see pictures of grandchildren and vacations, and weddings and happy moments that a patient was able to be part of.  


 

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