Meet the Doctor: Lisa Jablon, MD
Lisa Jablon, MD, is a breast surgeon with Einstein Breast Associates and Director of Breast Health at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. She sees patients at the Marion-Louise Saltzman Women’s Center, 5501 Old York Road, and Einstein Center One, 9880 Bustleton Ave., both in Philadelphia. She is also Director of the Genetics Risk Program for breast and ovarian cancer.
Dr. Jablon is board certified in general surgery by the American Board of Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. In 2012, she received the Light of Life Award from Susan G. Komen for the Cure Philadelphia.
We spoke recently with Dr. Jablon about her career, her interests, and breast health care at Einstein.
Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?
A: When I started college, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I liked horses and I liked science and biology. Somewhere along the line, though, I lost my interest in this pursuit and looked more to the possibility of a medical career. My dad was a physician and I was interested in the sciences and in the prospect of helping people. So I became more interested in medicine towards my later years in college. Growing up, my parents always wanted one of their kids to become a physician, so they were very supportive, and that was helpful, too.
Q: Tell us about your educational background.
A: I am a local “girl.” I graduated from Cheltenham High School. I went to Franklin and Marshall College and Temple University Medical School. I joined Einstein and did my residency in general surgery from ’85 to ’90.
Q: What led you to choose surgery and then breast surgery?
A: In medical school, you get the opportunity to rotate through different disciplines, and as I went through each rotation, I liked certain things about them. But when I got to surgery, which was the very last rotation of my third year of medical school, I just fell in love with surgery. I did my rotation at Abington Hospital, and I had great mentors.
Q: What did you love about surgery?
A: Well, I think that anyone who chooses surgery as a career loves being in the operating room. I always loved anatomy and was fascinated by the workings of the body. The draw to a surgical career is about the immediacy of problem-solving. I wanted to have the ability to handle critical problems and help people. That’s what was so appealing to me.
Q: And how did you come to specialize in breast surgery?
A: Well, that was more of an evolution, I think. When I first got into practice, I liked the excitement of doing everything and being able to help even the most critically injured or sick patients. At first, I didn’t want to limit myself. But the more I was in practice, the more I enjoyed seeing patients for follow-up care. In a breast cancer practice, you get to know people. You develop relationships. And I liked that aspect of the practice.
Q: You came here for residency and stayed. Why did you do that?
A: At the time when I applied to residencies, I ranked Einstein No. 1 because I wanted an inner-city hospital that had expertise with a lot of critical patients. I wanted to be exposed to patients demonstrating a broad spectrum of illnesses. Einstein had a good reputation in the city and a good surgical reputation. And then I really liked the hospital and the physicians I worked with. So when I graduated from my residency program, I had a meeting with my Chairman at the time, Dr. Robert Somers, to get his ideas about what it would take to start up a solo practice. I figured that I’d struggle in the beginning, but I’d be okay. And after I finished the interview, he offered me a job. And I really respected him, so it was a “no brainer.”
Q: Why should people choose Einstein for breast cancer care?
A: Patients rarely go somewhere else after they’ve seen what we have to offer. And I think part of that is because we stay current, with state-of-the-art care. I have a lot of experience, with now 30 years in practice. If patients need to have a mastectomy, I can offer nipple and skin-sparing techniques with immediate reconstruction. Most women don’t need to have their breasts removed to treat their cancer and can be treated with less surgery.
We have over the years tried different approaches to limit the number of procedures that are needed. For instance, when women have a lumpectomy, breast-sparing surgery, we will apply ink to the surfaces of the tissue in the operating room, rather than relying on the pathology technician to mark the margins. In this way, it is more accurate, and we have found that by doing this we have reduced the percentage of women who need to go back for additional surgery.
We have a great team approach where all the breast specialists meet weekly and review each new cancer patient. And I think all of that, combined with a personal approach to taking care of patients, leads to great patient satisfaction. At some centers, you might see the physician once and then you may be passed over to a fellow or physician extender who then follows you. We don’t do that. After the surgery, I am interested in following my patients to make sure they are on track and doing well.
Q: What are your interests outside of work?
A: I have a wonderful family, a husband, and three boys. The boys are mostly grown now and I have only one son at home, but I spend a lot of time with my family. I like tennis a lot. I play three, four, sometimes five times a week, and in the warmer weather, I love to garden.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: I have so many, but I think Good Will Hunting was one of my favorites.
Q: Do you have a favorite restaurant?
A: Yes, I like Trattoria Moma in Mount Airy. It’s a little Italian place.
Q: How about a favorite vacation spot?
A: Probably Italy, the whole country, but especially Tuscany.
Q: Did you have an early role model?
A: I would say probably my father because of the medicine connection. He was a very caring person. And my mother was a very strong personality and very much interested in women being independent. And then I would say Dr. Somers as well. Besides being technically excellent, I tried to model myself after his ability to connect to people, and I hope that I have achieved that.
Q: Is there a person that you would be particularly interested in meeting?
A: I’d like to meet Barack Obama. I really respected him and I miss him terribly.
Q: Is there something that most people don’t know about you?
A: Well, it’s sort of an odd thing, but the day I was born my mother (nine months pregnant) was driving the car and was in a terrible accident. The car flipped over several times, and everyone was thrown out of the vehicle. She broke her pelvis and her scapula and was knocked unconscious and I was delivered hours later. So I had an exciting birth. This was in El Paso, Texas. My father was in the Air Force. My brother was 2, and he had only a skinned knee. My father broke his pelvis also and both of my parents were in the hospital for about a month. I was discharged to my grandparents, who flew down from Philly to Texas to take care of me.
Learn more about Einstein breast cancer care.