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Talks with Docs: Anna Chalmers, MD

Read Time: 3 minutes

Video Transcript

I would say I learn something every day from my patients. And I'm still surprised even after 10 years plus of doing oncology.

I'm Anna Chalmers, I'm a medical oncologist at Huntsman Cancer Institute, I specialize in sarcomas, treatment of all different types of sarcomas. I'm also the director of inpatient medical oncology.

What is sarcoma?

So sarcoma is a tumor, or cancer, of all the places that we don't think about cancer coming. So, the soft tissue, the muscle, the fat, and also as well, not just the soft tissue, but the bone, and it can happen anywhere in the body.

Why did you decide to specialize in the treatment of sarcoma?

In fellowship, sarcoma is such a small part of what you learn. It's always sort of an afterthought, because it is so rare, and even ultra rare. And there are so many different subtypes. That drew me to it as sort of the underdog, and also that a lot of people think that what we have in medical oncology, doesn't work in sarcoma. A lot of people come into clinic and tell me “chemotherapy doesn't work, why am I here?” The field has changed, and I like to educate and also let people know that there are things in our world that work with sarcoma, there are successes. And that's what I work for every day.

How do you talk to your patients about clinical trials?

When we discuss clinical trials with patients, we really want to make sure they understand what the trial is, what it's offering, and help them make the decision about their treatment. Is a trial the best option for them? Do they know exactly what it means to be on the trial and what other options are there? I think our job is really to give our recommendation and educate, but it's ultimately the patient who needs to decide the right path for them.

What are you optimistic about for the future of your work?

There are two things that make me optimistic and hopeful about what I do. One is seeing patients in clinic, no matter how they're doing, but they always sort of bring me hope that there is something around the corner and the other, is all the research. We have to get better at treating this disease, at finding this disease.

What makes Huntsman Cancer Institute a unique place to practice medicine?

What makes Huntsman Cancer Institute unique is both its warmth and compassion. I truly admire everyone I work with and how they take care of patients. It's also collaboration. A lot of places talk about that, but it is very true here. We really all work together. We meet frequently. We are all at the same table at our treatment planning conferences for the surgeons, the radiation doctors and pathologists. We work together to absolutely bring the best plan we can for our patients.

What do you like to do on your days off?

You will find me with my family. I have two young kids, so we ski and hike and go on adventures. My kids this year, both turned into very avid skiers. I don't know if it was the hot chocolate. But that's what we like to do.

What have you learned from your patients?

I would say I learn something every day for my patients. I'm still surprised even after 10 years plus of doing oncology. But mostly I learned that there's a lot of joy in the little moments that people have. And I see one of my jobs as giving people as much life as possible, but also doing it in a way that they're still able to find that joy, no matter where it is.

Cancer touches all of us.