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Faculty Focus: Lillian Erdahl, MD

Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Lillian Erdahl, MDWhat is your hometown?

Iowa City, Iowa. Go City High Little Hawks!

How/when did you become interested in science and/or medicine?

My grandfather was a general practitioner, and I loved to hear stories about his work as a child. I became more interested in medicine when I was in high school as it combined my interest in science and working with people.

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

I joined in 2014 after completing my fellowship in breast surgical oncology at Mayo Clinic.

How or why did you choose to join the faculty at the University of Iowa?

It was a chance to come home, not just to Iowa City, but also to a place where my family and I had received care. The opportunity to work in an academic environment and give back to my community was one aspect. The other aspect was the Department of Surgery’s history and commitment to excellence in education.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

There are so many teachers and mentors who have shaped my career along the way. The person who has mentored me throughout my career on how to be a professional is my dad. Many of the lessons from his career as a lawyer can be translated into what it takes to be a successful doctor.

How do you see your faculty role impacting medicine and/or science?

My work can impact medicine in many ways. I am passionate about equity in healthcare for both patients and professionals.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

Technology has rapidly changed the way that we practice medicine and interact with patients. From the electronic health record to new surgical devices and the presence of social media as a dominant form of communication.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

Instead of thinking about what specialty you want to practice, think about what you want your practice to look like on a daily or weekly basis. What disease processes interest you? What population of patients are you passionate about helping?

In what ways are you engaged in professional activities outside the University (i.e. population based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/ expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagement off campus, etc.)?

Outside of the university I am involved with several national organizations. I serve on the Communications Committee for the Association of Women Surgeons and the Faculty Development Committee for the Association for Surgical Education. I am passionate about mentoring women in STEM fields, including medicine and surgery. There are several networks that I am involved in to improve gender equity, diversity, and inclusion across health care and society. In addition, I have been privileged to speak to several local organizations regarding breast cancer treatment, risk reduction, and screening. Public education regarding health is an important part of ensuring that we deliver the highest quality care in an equitable manner.

What are some of your outside (personal) interests?

Many of my personal interests involve being outside. I enjoy yoga, hiking, and cross-country skiing, as well as gardening. My children keep me active and we also enjoy soccer and other sports.

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