Apr 28, 2021 12:00 PM


photo of sonal oza, md
Sonal Oza, MD

Video transcript

With rehab, our goal is to allow that patient to function and do the things that are important to them.

My name is Sonal Oza. I'm a cancer rehabilitation physician at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

What is Cancer Rehabilitation?

Cancer rehabilitation is a relatively newer sub-specialty of rehab, and our main role is to ensure that patients are able to function, carry out their day-to-day activities, do the activities that are meaningful to them, during their time — either before, during, or after cancer treatment.

Life goes on after a cancer diagnosis. Patients want to be able to spend time with their families, take care of elderly parents or their children. They want to return to work or continue working. They want to do the things that they enjoy. So, our job is to make sure that they don't feel limited by any pain, fatigue, or weakness.

What’s something your patients may be surprised to learn about you?

Growing up I did karate and I did obtain my black belt when I was younger. I think most patients would not expect me to have done karate growing up, but it's something that I learned to really, really enjoy.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I think the nice part about being there is that you're close to a city, there's a lake nearby and so you don't feel as landlocked. I think it was it was neat to be in a city where there were different healthcare systems as well, and a diverse population.

What sparked your interest in medicine?

What drew me to medicine, and especially rehab medicine, is that it's really an intersection of multiple fields. Yes, it's medicine, and we care about diagnosing and treating a patient's medical condition, but with rehab our goal is to allow that patient to function and do the things that are important to them. So, in order to do that, we care about what their support system is like, We have to take in mind what their kind of social and economic situation is, their ability to access care, how can they navigate their environment. We also have the opportunity to serve as advocates for our patients, recognizing how much of their ability to access resources, and their environment, impacts their physical and mental well-being.

Who would you trade lives with for a day?

I think it'd be interesting to step in the shoes of a patient because I think practicing in medicine, and perhaps even in rehab, we like to think that we know - through validating - what patients are going through and trying to empathize with them, but I think it would be really meaningful to just be the wallflower of what a patient is going through. 

What is the best part of working at Huntsman Cancer Institute?

The environment is really warm and welcoming. I think many institutions share that they want to deliver humanistic care, but I think that really shows through from the staff that work here, the oncology teams, the supportive services. So, it's an environment where I think it's encouraging

to see that they really value a patient's quality of life, regardless of where they are in terms of their cancer. We want to provide patients the most comprehensive care possible and recognizing sometimes, rehab is more appropriate than others, but when it is the time and it is relevant, we want every patient to know, regardless of where they live, that they have a team here that's here to support them.

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