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Business & Professional Women in Austin: Aimee Mackey, M.D., FACS

Publication: The Jewish Outlook

What inspired you to specialize in breast surgery?

I always knew I wanted to be a surgeon – I just wasn't sure what kind. During residency, I was drawn toward oncology because I found it to be very rewarding. Specifically, I enjoyed developing long-term relationships with breast cancer patients and helping them fight their disease. In addition, since breast cancer care is constantly evolving, it pushes me to continue to learn and provide patients with the most up-to-date care.

What do you think helped you the most to make a career as a woman? 

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to attend an all-girl Catholic school in south Louisiana. This truly instilled in us that we can accomplish anything we put our mind to. Therefore, I have to give my educators and coaches the majority of the credit here as I was constantly pushed to excel and reach my goals. I also give credit to my parents who continued to encourage me along the way and were my biggest cheerleaders in life. 

What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?  

Having a large support system has influenced my success throughout my life. I have an ample amount of support from my friends, family, husband, children, colleagues, and more that have always cheered me on. In fact, my husband is also a physician, so he can definitely relate to the hard work and long hours it takes to be a doctor, an attentive family member, and friend. I’m also fellowship-trained and specialize in breast surgery that treats all breast conditions, from benign breast disease to malignant breast cancer. I completed a breast surgical oncology fellowship at Columbia University Medical Center New York, where I learned comprehensive and innovative approaches for treating breast disease. All of these opportunities and my support system have made me successful and ignited my passion to provide high-quality care for all of my patients as well as the latest surgical techniques.

How should women support other women in their organizations? 

I think women can be competitive, sometimes harder on each other than men. I think this must change. We need to lift each other up and provide support rather than pull each other down. Additionally, we need more women in leadership positions within healthcare and with that will come change. Unfortunately, women tend to also manage the household (family/kids) so that can be a really difficult balance. I’m also in a unique position to advocate for women in my organization as my partners and I at Texas Breast Specialists are one of the only all-female breast surgical groups in Austin. This is incredible and allows us to all strive to support one another every day and exceed society standards. 

What are you most looking forward to as breast cancer treatment continues to evolve?  

This one is a little personal. My family carries the BRCA1 mutation, so I'm very grateful for how far genetic testing has come in the last decade. Some of the most aggressive cancers are in genetic mutation carriers, which makes the research on triple-negative breast cancer and the subset of BRCA+ triple-negative cancer very exciting. I hope it continues to improve the outcomes for our patients (and my family!). Breast surgery has changed so much over the last 20 years, and I believe it will continue to push the envelope as we listen to patients’ feedback regarding quality-of-life measures.

What is one thing you wish people knew about breast cancer? 

This is really a hard one because there’s an abundance of things I wish people knew. For the most part, patients with breast cancer are so strong, amazing, and resilient despite their situation. There is this wonderful tribe of patients who would do anything for each other. Given the circumstances, there are some admirable stories of wonderful friendships being formed that came out of the scariest event in one’s life. My job is to do my best to give these patients the best chance at living their best life, and I aim for this every day.

What has working with cancer patients taught you about resiliency in the human spirit?

Patients are amazing! I believe our patients are grateful for their treatments and really learn to embrace life when they are forced to look at it head on. I have numerous patients who change their lifestyles or start doing the activities they always wished they had done before being diagnosed. My patients inspire me to live life to the fullest and not take any of it for granted.

What sets you apart from others in your field? 

I want to note that there are so many great breast surgeons in the area—all of my partners are amazing in their own way. We all strive to deliver outstanding care. Personally, breast surgery hits a bit closer to home for me as my family carries the BRCA1 mutation, and I feel like that allows me to connect to the field, patients, and their families in a different way. 

What is a myth you’d like to dispel about breast cancer?

Gosh, there are so many! First, some people think that mammograms cause cancer – this is untrue. Mammograms actually save lives. We recommend that everyone start receiving annual mammograms at age 40 to identify cancer in its early stages, when it is most treatable. 

Second, some people believe that a father’s family history isn’t important for breast cancer risk – this is also untrue. It is critical to obtain a full family history, as breast cancer genes can be passed on from either your mother or your father. For example, in my family, my mother inherited the gene from her father who lived into his 80s with no problems despite his four sisters being diagnosed with breast cancer.

What are your hobbies outside of work?  

I love spending time with my family. I have four young kids – ages six, four, two, and nine months – and a dog. We like to play outside and enjoy nature. I grew up in the South, so of course I love football games in the fall! My husband and I also enjoy listening to live music and trying new restaurants.

Read the full story at The Jewish Outlook.

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