Sara Berg, MD
- Excels at managing her personal life as a wife and professional life as a resident.
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"I really like summary emails like Physician’s First Watch that send the highlights of recent important articles. During a busy week it helps me focus on what’s important. I also find myself going to Harrison’s frequently when I need to review a topic."
Tell us more about your abstract that recently got accepted into the ASCO 2011 meeting.
In medical school I worked with Mario Lacouture in the Department of Dermatology in his SERIES clinic for patients experiencing dermatologic side effects of their targeted cancer therapies. We looked at how dermatologic toxicities to targeted anti-cancer therapies, such as epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors, affect quality of life. We used the Skindex-16, a validated rating scale that includes symptomatic, emotional and functional aspects of quality of life. We found that dermatologic toxicities to these drugs are common, and that particular toxicities, such as a papulopustular rash, have an enormous impact on patients’ quality of life. We have been working to develop a Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT)-EGFRI, a rating scale that could be used to better understand how side effects of EGFRIs affect patients’ quality of life, and to track how quality of life improves with particular treatments.
This is important to understand because these dermatologic side effects can be so severe that they sometimes limit or interrupt potentially life-saving cancer treatment. Existing tools to measure the impact of side effects to cancer treatments, such as the NCI’s Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE), do not encompass important aspects of quality of life such as functioning or emotions.
How has your perception of NMH changed from when you were a medical student?
As a medical student at Northwestern I especially appreciated two things about the Department of Medicine that have had an even greater impact on me as a resident: One, that teaching and learning at every level is part of the culture here, and two, the incredible atmosphere of camaraderie. I always feel supported by my fellow residents and appreciate that everyone is happy to help each other. Being surrounded by such smart people who are willing to share their knowledge and skills is one of the reasons I feel so lucky to have stayed at Northwestern.
How do you achieve work-life balance as an Intern?
I got married in Chicago in March, 2010, and then a few days later found out that I matched at Northwestern; it was an incredible week! Maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging at times, but being in such a supportive program (and having a supportive family) makes it possible. I was prepared to say goodbye to my new husband and the rest of my family when I started intern year – but I really didn’t have to do that at all! While being an intern can be busy and sometimes stressful, there is certainly time to maintain relationships and continue to do things outside of work that you enjoy.
As an intern I can still work out, cook an elaborate dinner, and spend quality time with my husband -- just not all in the same evening, and not every night of the week. I can still have dinner with my parents, two brothers and grandparents who also live in Chicago, but I may not be able to join them every Sunday.