As director of breast imaging, Dr. Gwendolyn Bryant-Smith recognizes the transformative power of the interdisciplinary approach to treatment that UAMS provides to its patients.
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Meredith Melody | Hair by Chaz Gogel with Face Your Day Studios | Makeup by Aaron Perkins with Face Your Day Studios | Dress from Feinstein’s | Jewelry from Sissy’s Log Cabin
Dr. Gwendolyn Bryant-Smith participated in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Summer Science Program nearly three decades ago. During junior high school, she realized her interest in medicine and has pursued it with great passion and success. Today, she serves as director of breast imaging at the UAMS and welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center as this year’s beneficiary at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Gala for Life.
Gwen’s tenure with UAMS began as a medical student followed by a transitional internship, a residency in diagnostic radiology, a fellowship in breast imaging and as a staff radiologist before she left UAMS to join Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System as director of breast imaging. “At Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, I had the honor of caring for our state’s growing population of female veterans,” Gwen explains. “Now I have the opportunity to serve at the very institution that trained me and treat patients from all over the state; that’s quite a privilege.”
The UAMS Breast Center offers 3D mammography, ultrasound and MRI in addition to traditional mammography. Gwen has witnessed the evolution of tools and techniques that promote wellness and more effective management of breast cancer. “From film-screen mammography to digital mammography and 3D mammography, breast imaging technology continues to advance – improving our ability to detect breast cancers earlier and earlier.”
Her devotion to the welfare of her patients is unwavering. “I’m happiest knowing I make a difference in a patient’s life,” Gwen explains. “When I hug them, when I see their tears, when I discover a small cancer on a mammogram that I know can be cured because it is very small – I feel full of purpose and I am reminded I have been fortunate to find ‘the thing’ in life that I am destined to do.”
When necessary, her patients are referred to the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center at WRCI – a key benefit unique to UAMS. Congruent to its integrated approach to healthcare is the scope of services that UAMS provides in a singular location. Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Director Dr. Peter Emanuel notes, “We are the only comprehensive center in the state that has interdisciplinary teams of fellowship-trained specialists, all working under the same entity, to devise the most effective treatment plan.”
Gwen recognizes the intricate teamwork required to properly diagnose and care for breast cancer patients. It plays a critical role in the integrated approach to individualized treatment plans. Director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Program Dr. Suzanne Klimberg designed and leads a weekly multidisciplinary conference with the finite focus of improving patient care. This revolutionary approach is fundamental in the UAMS philosophy. Dr. Leverd Peacock and Dr. Sunjay Maraboyina, both radiation oncologists, provide weekly updates highlighting the most recent innovations. “Breast imaging would not have as much positive impact without the help of our interdisciplinary team,” Gwen says.
The culture of UAMS – where learning and wellness blend seamlessly into individualized treatment plans – seems as natural as her compassionate disposition. Gwen is truly a product of the UAMS education system and proud to comprise part of the world-class team of experts that inspire patients to believe in the potential of UAMS as the premier center for healthcare. She continues to learn alongside her colleagues and believes it’s her responsibility to mentor the next generation of medical professionals that will continue to improve the health of all Arkansans. “Giving back to the community that has given me so much is a top priority.”
Improved services is paramount at UAMS WRCI, the state’s only academic research center with scientists that work to advance cancer care and prevention. It serves as a hub for innovative technology and medical exploration – where quality, accessible healthcare is a top priority. Each year at its signature event Gala for Life, patrons enjoy an evening of fellowship and festivities that celebrate UAMS doctors and scientists for their commitment and dedication to the institution.
Chair of the Radiation Oncology Center Dr. Fen Xia recently joined the UAMS faculty and notes, “Funds raised from the gala will be a tremendous help for our mission. First, we plan to start a radiation oncology residency program so that we can provide excellent training for the next generation of radiation oncologists to practice in Arkansas. Second, we would like to have a fellowship program to support young investigators to launch careers in translation and clinical cancer research. Third, we want to invest in our research programs to understand the differences amongst patients who have differing responses to radiation treatment.”
Creating more opportunities for necessary research is key, but at the heart of it all is the welfare of people, a mission that Gwen embraces whole-heartedly. “It’s an infinite combination of experiences that makes all people unique and fascinating. Each patient is special, and I am inspired by each of them.”