National Women’s History month, recognized each year in March, draws attention to the important roles that women play in our lives. Cancer care is an area that requires compassion from the point of diagnosis through survivorship. More than 8,400 new cases of cancer are expected in Hawai‘i this year, with breast cancer as the most frequent diagnosis1. Nearly 1,500 women are estimated to receive a breast cancer diagnosis, and female practitioners within the oncology field can offer understanding and relatable support for female cancer patients.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that more female oncologists are now entering the field. While women account for about 30 percent of oncologists, 48 percent of oncology fellows are women2. The Queen’s Health System is proud to include more than 160 talented and skilled women working in its department. 75 percent of the oncology staff is female and recognize health issues that matter most to women.
In honor of National Women’s History Month, a few female oncology staff members at QHS shared about their experiences and offered advice to those who plan to join the field.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The relationships I build with our patients and their families. These relationships, no matter how transient or long-lasting, provide me with a sense of gratification.Jaime Okamoto Norman, RN for Radiation Oncology
What made you want to specialize in oncology?
When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was devastated. Her medical oncologist guided our family through this time of complete helplessness. He provided us with the care and support we needed. Since then, I’ve hoped to be able to provide the same expertise and comfort to others in a similar situation.Jodi Kagihara, MD for Hematology/Medical Oncology, Hawaii Oncology, Inc. & Assistant Clinical Professor at University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine
What inspires you the most about your job?
Patients inspire me with their positivity.Sharon L.K. Tamashiro, RN Operations Manager Oncology Research
How does being a woman in the oncology field empower you each day?
As there are a limited number of female oncologists in Hawai‘i, it’s a privilege to take care of patients who want to see a female oncologist.Jodi Kagihara, MD for Hematology/Medical Oncology, Hawaii Oncology, Inc. & Assistant Clinical Professor at University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine
How do you see the women empowering one another in the oncology department at QHS?
I am constantly surrounded by strong, compassionate, and smart women. These women are nurses, medical assistants, therapists, physicians, managers, etc. They lead by example. They also support, educate, and motivate each other to be great.Jaime Okamoto Norman, RN for Radiation Oncology
What would you share with other women who are starting their journey working in the oncology field?
In Hawai‘i in particular, just because there does not appear to be many female oncology mentors or role models, does not mean it can’t be done.Jodi Kagihara, MD for Hematology/Medical Oncology, Hawaii Oncology, Inc. & Assistant Clinical Professor at University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine
What advice would you like to give female students in medical school?
Don’t aim to be an excellent female doctor. Aim to be an excellent doctor.Sharon L.K. Tamashiro, RN Operations Manager Oncology Research