SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- A brand new breast surgical oncologist has joined team at Mission Hope Cancer Center in Santa Maria.
Dr. Colleen O'Kelly just completed her first week on the job after moving to the Central Coast from Binghamton, New York.
"I'm really happy to be here," said O'Kelly. "I feel much more at home on the West Coast, or the best coast as I like to call it, but I'm really looking forward to meeting a lot of people, and helping a lot of people here in this community, and I'm just thrilled to be here."
The Northern California native is a Stanford University graduate who earned her medical degree at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. She completed her medical residency in General Surgery at the University of Washington, and later completed subspeciality training in Surgical Breast Oncology at the University of Southern California.
O'Kelly said working during the pandemic in New York made it clear that she needed to return back to the Golden State, where she could be closer to her family.
"When I was looking at positions out here on the West Coast, this one caught my eye," said O'Kelly. "What I loved about it is how incredibly warm everybody was when I spoke with them and how passionate everybody seemed about cancer care and about really taking care of the community, which is something that's very important to me."
At Mission Hope, she'll take the position that was left open when Dr. Monica Rocco, who helped open Mission Hope in 2012, returned back to her home in Austin, Texas.
"I'm board certified in general surgery, and then I did additional subspeciality training in breast cancer surgery, so that's all I do," said O'Kelly. "I see all range of breast disease, from benign lumps, to advanced aggressive breast cancers, and I can treat all of them surgically, so I'm the one doing the lumpectomy, or the mastectomy, taking care of the lymph nodes under the arms, that's what I do."
O'Kelly said as Mission Hope's breast cancer oncologist, she's eager to make a big difference difference in the community.
"One of the things they really stressed was how crucial the multi-disciplinary breast cancer care is here," said O'Kelly. "I've seen that already in my first tumor board yesterday, with the radiation oncologist and the medical oncologist and myself as the surgical oncologist, along with the pathologists and radiologist, everybody coming together, even with the nurses and research coordinators. Everybody is all working together to make sure that the patient gets the best possible care, and that's phenomenal. You don't get that everywhere, and so I really appreciate."
O'Kelly is beginning her new position just three weeks before Day of Hope, the annual community fundraiser for Mission Hope patients.
Now in its eighth year, the Day of Hope features teams of volunteers selling special edition $1 Santa Maria Times newspapers throughout the community.
All of the proceeds directly benefit patient services.
"I'm really excited about it," said O'Kelly. "Every thing I've heard about the Day of Hope is so cool about how the community really comes together to support all of the cancer patients that need the help, and I love that I'm a part of the organization that's driving this, and getting everybody involved, and so I feel very proud and honored to be a part of it."
The Day of Hope is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.
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