While Dr. Durden may not have the opportunity to frequently interact with breast cancer patients on a day-to-day basis, her role as a surgical pathologist is critical to their care. She carefully examines tissue removed during a biopsy or lumpectomy, ultimately providing a diagnosis.
"My decision to enter pathology was influenced by several women during my medical training," she says. "I knew and admired them because of their resourcefulness, their skill in diagnosing disease and knowledgeable about the mechanisms of those diseases. I loved how this specialty integrated basic science and clinical medicine."
Dr. Durden recalls one breast cancer patient in particular who made a lasting impression on her—a caring secretary in the pathology department where she was completing her residency diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer at age 40.
"She was a single mother of a teenage daughter and fighting this illness on her own," she says. "When many people would have succumbed to feelings of desperation or hopelessness, she did not. Her outlook was always positive and she was still able to count her blessings each day as she helped her daughter understand her illness and prepared her well for what was to come. Although she eventually lost her fight with cancer, she was an inspiration to me and many others, as she didn't allow the disease to define her or destroy her spirit.
Knowing this patient so well makes Dr. Durden's opportunity to work so closely with other members of the St. Vincent Healthcare breast cancer team.
"Who better knows what women need than other women?" she says. " I enjoy collaborating with other female colleagues in order to render excellent women's health care because ultimately, these efforts will one day affect me. Eventually, we all become patients and we all want top-notch, compassionate care."