As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Sharyn N. Lewin, MD, FACS, FACOG. Dr. Lewin is a board-certified Gynecologic Oncologist. Dr. Lewin specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of ovarian, endometrial, uterine, cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers. She serves as Medical Director of the New Jersey-based Holy Name Medical Center’s Gynecologic Oncology Division.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I am a gynecologic oncologist, a doctor who takes care of women with cancer of the female reproductive track. I am both a surgeon as well as a physician who administers and manages chemotherapy. I also perform complex benign surgeries. I am proud of the comprehensive care we provide for women.
The mystery of disease and the intricacies of the human body always fascinated me. In elementary school, this curiosity led me to enter and subsequently win, my school’s science fair. Being close to a grandmother who had a thriving gynecologic practice — and sharing the dedication to improve women’s healthcare — solidified my path.
I completed medical school at the University of Kansas and began my OB/GYN residency at Washington University in St. Louis, where my first rotation was gynecologic oncology. I quickly realized that women with cancer were among the most appreciative, kind, and caring women I had ever met. I knew from that experience I would become a gynecologic oncologist.
After completing my residency, I was fortunate to enter a fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. I learned from the best.
While working at NY Presbyterian, I treated a woman who shared my vision of how women with cancer need both medical and emotional care throughout their treatment. This shared vision and her generous gift enabled me to establish The Lewin Fund to Fight Women’s Cancers. To honor her memory, The Lewin Fund’s mission consists of education, research, prevention and support services for women with cancer in their families. I am proud to be the Executive Director of The Lewin Fund and am passionate about providing these amazing women with medical treatment and lifelong support.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
It is hard to come up with just one story, as impacting women through our initiatives and making significant differences in their day-to-day lives, has been such a rewarding endeavor.
Laura Mack is now a 37-year-old ovarian cancer survivor. I met her at the age of 32. All her life, Laura was an athlete in excellent physical condition. She noticed increasing bloating in her abdomen and knew something was wrong. After testing, Laura was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. I was instrumental in giving her the best medical and surgical attention possible — she made a full recovery. Laura has since dedicated herself to educating women on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, hoping more women can achieve the outcome that she did. She has been a Champion for the Lewin Fund to Fight Women’s Cancers, supporting its mission and outreach. Laura and her mom initiated the movement, “Tell 10 Women”, in partnership with The Lewin Fund to educate the community about the symptoms of ovarian cancer as well as ways to prevent and treat the disease.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are the only nonprofit in the tri-state area dedicated to all women with cancer and we are particularly focused on the underserved. For example, we support a program in the Bronx for children whose mothers or grandmothers have had cancer. This unique peer mentoring program for such an under-supported population has been lifechanging. We fund transportation programs to help women get to their chemotherapy and doctor appointments. Additionally, we have impacted thousands of women with our free community wellness and prevention symposium. We are a family fund, making a real difference for women in the tristate area and beyond. The fund began through a bequest from a grateful patient. Our voluntary board carefully vets proposals for funding. There is low overhead and no one on the board takes a salary. We are also unique because we not only help women with cancer, but also support wellness and prevention initiatives to keep women healthy.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
We are working to address the disparities noted in these two timely articles:
We are working to educate the public about health and wellness as well as the signs and symptoms of cancer. We are funding innovate, grassroots programs to impact lives and effect cures for those suffering from cancer.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
- Disparities in quality of care
- In-efficiencies and expense of care
- High out of pocket costs and gaps in coverage
- Large number of uninsured
You are a “healthcare insider”. Can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
- Eliminate disparities in quality of care
- Increase focus on wellness and prevention of illnesses, chronic diseases and cancers
- Health care incentives for wellness (i.e., remaining in an ideal body weight)
- Reduce cost of health care and expenditures (and insurance plans)
- More support for underserved populations
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
- Wide-spread community education and outreach.
- Financial incentives for health, wellness, ideal body weight, etc.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
Many peer-reviewed journals and podcasts.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook, twitter and Instagram via The Lewin Fund
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!