When Dr. Tokyo Williams began her medical studies, she wanted to become a cardiologist.

But in her final year of medical school, she was diagnosed with breast cancer – to chemotherapy, double mastectomy and breast reconstruction – and was forced to give up that plan.

But from that experience, new ideas came into the future.

“As I was growing up with breast augmentation, I realized that this was what I wanted to do professionally,” said Williams of Hyde Park. “One of the things that made me happy again was the rebuilding.”

She decided to undergo plastic surgery to help other women who had breast cancer after cancer. Now, 10 years after she first developed breast cancer, Dr. Robert Galino is working as a postdoctoral researcher for her own plastic surgeons at Northwest Medical Center. She is assisting in her research on racial differences in breast reconstruction.

Breast Reconstruction is a surgical procedure in which the breasts are regenerated after one or both breasts are removed, usually due to cancer. After mastectomy surgery, it is covered by health insurance and in many cases has been shown to be beneficial for the psychological well-being of women after breast cancer. About 43% of breast cancer patients underwent breast augmentation in 2014, according to an article in The Breast.

Patients who want to rebuild their breasts have many options, including implants or tissue removal. As part of the decision-making process, patients often look at photos to see what each option looks like.

However, when Williams thought about what to do with her own reconstruction, she realized that it was difficult to find images of women of color who performed the procedure.

“I struggled to find photos that represented what different types of reconstruction looked like to me,” Williams said.

Gallino noticed a shortage of colorful women. He knew that black patients were being rebuilt to a lesser extent than white patients. A 2017 study by the University of Pennsylvania found that women of color had private health insurance and lived in areas where there were many plastic surgeons, but they still had a 25 percent lower breast recovery rate than white women.

Galino and his students and residents found that only 6.7% of the 2,580 breast augmentation photos posted on social media and websites by plastic surgeons were non-white patients.

“If you can’t see the photos of what they look like at the end, it’s a barrier to a black patient making a completely informed choice,” Williams said.

Williams and Galino doubt that scarring issues may be part of the reason for the lack of photos. For reasons still not fully understood, black patients often have more visible scars than patients with lighter skin after surgery, Galino said.

“My guess is that as plastic surgeons, we are basically focused on the image,” Galino said. “Of course, we only offer our efforts. … One of the things that makes for a visually appealing result is if the scars are of good quality and not visible.

But posting only photos of white women doing reconstruction “hurts our patients,” he said.

Now, Williams is studying ways to resolve differences between patients of different races on breast reconstruction with Galino. Galino and his residents and students speculated that black women could receive a little bit of reconstruction from white women because of the scars on the paper, socio-economic issues, the feeling that plastic surgery is forbidden in some communities, or inappropriate. Consultation before surgery.

Williams is now developing a computer program that patients can look at when they think of reconstruction options and how this program is helping women of color in particular. And she’s working with Galino on how to improve scars.

“When you feel you have a mission in life, you work harder and you feel loved,” Gallino said of Williams. She is making the most of her illness, her experiences and her struggles and is trying to make it easier for the women behind her.

Williams hopes to become a plastic surgeon and help partially resolve differences. A study published in the Journal of Surgical Education found that since 2014, 3.5% of plastic surgery residents have been black.

“I think if we had more colorful surgeons from those groups, it would be one way to bridge that gap,” Williams said.

She is still working toward that goal – even if it takes more than she initially expected.

Growing up in the southern part of southern Holland, Williams knew from her childhood that she wanted to be a doctor. As a violinist, she appreciated the efficiency of the surgeon.

After Williams was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, she underwent chemotherapy, which forced her to drop out of school.

“Chemo was horrible,” Williams said. “It really hurt me, and after that year I had to regroup.”

Breastfeeding is one of the few things you can expect. For her, it showed that she could end her cancer experience and give her hope for the future.

“This is a wonderful time to be here with patients,” she says.

Reconstruction was not a challenge.

Williams had a number of complications, including a capsular contractor, which caused severe scarring in the implant, causing pain and other issues. She had to undergo more than half a dozen reconstructive surgeries, most recently in 2019 at Gallino, Northwestern University’s Fenberg School of Medicine, an associate professor of plastic surgery. Galino did not complete her first reconstruction work.

Finally, one year after waiting, Williams graduated from the University of Chicago School of Medicine in Illinois. Generally, people who want to become a plastic surgeon can go straight to plastic surgery after medical education or general surgery and then train to plastic surgery.

After medical education, Williams completed his undergraduate training in general surgery, Stanford University research, and burn surgery in Cook County. She now hopes to complete her specialty in plastic surgery. Places in plastic surgery residential programs are very competitive.

Earlier this year, when Gallino mentioned that he was looking for a research partner at Williams’ appointments, Williams knew this would be good. She hopes he can help her progress to become a plastic surgeon. And it was a study of her favorite subject.

“When you have to go back and do more and more surgeries, it can be challenging to put you behind your back psychologically, so it takes a lot to be strong and reach your life goals,” she said. I feel that I have reached a point where my work can be useful.


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