A Leader in Breast Cancer Care

A Leader in Breast Cancer Care


“Trust can be formed fairly quickly by you as a team leader. Showing that you are trustworthy, that you are capable, that they can trust you in this situation.”

Dr Lucia Saliba


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and, thanks to my good friend Andrew Paton-Smith, today we have the privilege of interviewing one of Australia’s leading breast cancer surgeons. Dr Lucia Saliba, who prefers to be called Luci, is here to help us gain a perspective on culture, leadership and teamwork as a surgeon.


Dr Luci knew she wanted to be in medicine from the age of three or four. She remembers, after telling her mum that she wanted to be a doctor, that she was quite upset when her brother received a toy doctor’s kit and she did not! It is fair to say that little setback did not hinder her plans as she graduated from the University of NSW in 1995, accomplished her General Surgery Fellowship in 2003-2005 and attended the Royal Australian College of Surgeons where she completed her Breast and Endocrine Fellowship.


But Dr Luci did not stop there.


After learning of a new approach in Oncoplastic Surgery, Dr Luci began further overseas training and, more recently, has graduated with a Master of Surgery in Breast Cancer.


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So, where does this level of commitment and dedication come from and why did Dr Luci set her sights on being a medical expert?


This insatiable appetite of curiosity was a direct influence from Dr Luci’s (non-medical) parents. They did not have the opportunity to be educated in their own country and, after immigrating to Australia, their passion for learning was passed onto Luci and her brother.


As for the ‘why’ behind Dr Luci becoming a leader in breast cancer care it is quite simply wanting to help people. She does this by being the best doctor she possibly can and providing the best care to help somebody, at the worst time in their life, to get through a challenging time. Dr Luci strives to have her patients looking in the mirror every day and instead of thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m a cancer survivor” saying, “Oh, I’ve beaten this” and ultimately getting back to having a fulfilling and normal life.


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In today’s conversation Dr Luci proudly shares her dedication for providing a holistic approach in cancer therapy. Although her personal part is to provide the surgical treatment, she works as part of a multi-disciplinary team and, as team leader, is there to make sure that the best outcomes occur. Surgical management starts in Dr Luci’s office which leads to the smooth transition between the different aspects of the treatment in the hospital. Her responsibility begins with the patient’s initial diagnosis and involves the coordination of a team of experts who each provide treatment.


A surgeon works within an interactive environment and the constantly evolving team traditionally includes an anaesthetist, nurses, trainees, interns, medical and nursing students. Yes, educating and supervising junior medical staff and surgical registrar’s in breast and general surgery, is another one of Dr Luci’s passions.


If you are wondering how Dr Luci adapts to constantly working with different team members and how she goes about developing trust in a transient high-performing team, literally within life and death situations, then you need to head over to The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) Podcast. In this conversation we learn what it takes to remain focused for long periods of time, dealing with work politics, coping with stress (like walking into theatre faced with the possibility of mistakes and challenges) and the importance of the debrief process, as well as the relevance of the song ‘Eye of the Tiger’…


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