Meet the Doctor: Sarah Walcott-Sapp, MD
Sarah Walcott-Sapp, MD, is a breast surgeon at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. She practices at the Louise Saltzman Women’s Center, 5501 Old York Road, and Einstein Center One, 9880 Bustleton Ave.
Dr. Walcott-Sapp is a member of the Society of Surgical Oncology, The American Society of Breast Surgeons, and the American College of Surgeons. She is board certified by the American Board of Surgery. She has collaborated on research studies examining the use of drug or radiation treatment before breast cancer surgery and the role of complementary therapies on survivorship issues in breast cancer.
We recently talked with Dr. Walcott-Sapp about her career, her interests and breast surgery at Einstein.
Q: Tell us about your education background.
A: I grew up in northern New Jersey and went to the University of Pennsylvania, where I completed my undergraduate degree in Biological Basis of Behavior, which is similar to neuroscience. Then I took two years off from school to do research for an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City while I figured out if I really wanted to go to medical school. I wanted to work closely with a doctor to see if the day-to-day life of a physician was worth the years and years of training. I went to medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans, and then did my surgical residency at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Ore., and a breast surgery fellowship in Los Angeles at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Q: Why did you finally decide you wanted to be a doctor?
A: During my research time in New York, I saw the impact that my boss, and the knee and hip replacement surgeries he performed, had on patients’ lives. People would come to the office for their first appointments in wheelchairs and then walk in for their post-surgery appointments. I liked the idea of being able to have such a direct, immediate way to improve the lives of other people. I also knew I needed a career where I wouldn’t get bored after a few years and realized that medicine evolved at a fast pace so there were always opportunities to learn new things and make progress on a larger scale with research.
Q: How did you decide that you wanted to pursue breast surgery?
A: When I started residency, I thought I wanted to do trauma surgery because I liked the excitement and pressure. But I soon realized that I preferred getting to know my patients in clinic before operating on them and having a chance to follow up with them after surgery for months to years. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to specialize in, I worked with some of the breast surgeons and realized that they seemed happy and had great, lasting relationships with their patients. I also really liked the idea of treating cancer, and specifically a type of cancer where patients usually did well in the long term.
Q: What drew you to Einstein?
A: I always felt like if I came back to the Northeast, Philadelphia is the only place that I would consider living. I liked it when I went to college here and think it offers a good balance of outdoor recreation, art and culture with a unique character and diverse population. When it came to Einstein, I really liked the opportunities to educate patients on breast cancer and its treatment options, provide high-quality breast cancer care to patients of all backgrounds, and do research with patient populations that have historically been underrepresented in many large breast cancer studies. Everyone I met with when I interviewed seemed committed to patient care, and Dr. Lisa Jablon, [director of the Breast Health Program at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia,] seemed like an experienced surgeon who would be a supportive mentor for me.
Q: Why should breast cancer patients choose Einstein for their care?
A: We have a well-established breast program, but Dr. Jablon, myself, the radiology department, and all of the other people we work with are trying to do new and different things and really push things forward with improving breast care and making things easier for our patients. It’s a good combination of stability and innovation.
For breast cancer particularly, it’s important to have multidisciplinary care. As surgeons, we work well with radiation oncology, medical oncology and radiology to treat patients. We plan our clinic schedules around being able to come to our weekly breast tumor board, which shows everyone’s commitment to discussing challenging clinical problems and providing optimal patient care.
Q: What are your interests outside work?
A: I really enjoy surfing, even though I’m not very good. I snowboard a lot in the winter and I enjoy going for trail runs. I’m also interested in contemporary art and I like reading fiction.
Q: Do you have a favorite book?
A: I really enjoyed Atonement by Ian McEwan and The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. I tend to like books that have either multiple story lines that come together or have a decision point and then describe the multiple possible outcomes from that decision.
Q: Do you have a favorite sports team?
A: I’m a New York Yankees fan. But I really like Gritty, so I’m also a Philadelphia Flyers fan now, too.
Q: Did you have an early role model?
A: I think my mom has been a role model for independence; she moved to Brazil by herself for a year to teach English right after finishing college. Both of my parents have really supported me and did not try to push me in one direction with my life or career, and I greatly appreciate that.
Q: What is an interesting fact about you?
A: If you count only driving through or spending time outside of an airport, I’ve been to all of the states except three: Minnesota, North Dakota and Kentucky. I am also related to Samuel F. B. Morse, the person who invented the telegraph.
Find out more about Einstein breast cancer care.