Medical Director, Comprehensive Breast Health Center, Celebration Health
CELEBRATION - Olga Ivanov is involved in a real love-hate relationship; she loves her job, but she hates working. That’s why she was thrilled to accept the position of medical director at the Florida Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Celebration Health.
“I come to the hospital and feel like I’m not working because I love what I’m doing,” beamed Ivanov, a surgeon who arrived here about 6 months ago from the Chicago area, where she had started and overseen a “very successful breast center” at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. “I loved my old job,” and “I loved Chicago,” she said, “but I’m very much addicted to the intensity of building a new project,” which ultimately was the motivating factor in her decision to move here.
“Florida Hospital is so darn innovative,” said the 36-year-old native of Ukraine. “They really want to know what’s happening (in medical care) tomorrow, not yesterday or today. That attitude is so infectious,” she said. “They are so supportive ... and they have resources here that were never available to me before.”
Ivanov said Florida Hospital’s commitment “translates not only to recruiting me, but in building the whole new women’s center, which we will break ground on in June and open next year. ... Everything from A to Z (for women’s healthcare) will be done under one roof, and the breast center will be a big part of that,” she said.
The Comprehensive Breast Health Center already had “the biggest parts in place” before Ivanov arrived, “but you can always do more,” she said. “Somebody has to be the leader and organize the team,” Ivanov said, and she has embraced the opportunity to meld her surgical and management skills with the team at the breast health center, which includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, gynecologists, genetic counselors, and nutritionists.
“Unlike many other cancers, breast cancer really takes a multi-disciplinary team,” said Ivanov. “Something that is right for one patient is absolutely wrong for the next patient.”
“That is our idea here. It’s not just that you (a patient) have surgery for your breast cancer, and you’re done and wished good luck,” she explained. “From the time a patient steps into our hospital with this horrible diagnosis – emotionally horrible, but not really physically horrible because breast cancer has such a tremendous survival rate – they have a complete outline of what will happen today, tomorrow and 5 years from now.”
And that “total wellness approach is what Florida Hospital is all about,” Ivanov said. “We’re not only taking care of the cancer in her breast, but we are caring for her mind, body and spirit.”
Ivanov said she spends two days a week in the operating room, and three days in the office with patients and overseeing the breast health center team. She also just went on staff at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, she said, and soon will begin mentoring medical students.
In fact, the mentoring she received while at the Medical School of Ohio (Toledo) persuaded Ivanov to become a surgeon. “I was heavily influenced in med school by two of my mentors, Dr. Chaudhuri and Dr. Arredondo, both surgeons. ... I became a surgeon mostly because of them,” she recalled. “Later, in residency (at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill.), it was getting so heartbreaking to work with cancer patients and give them mostly grave news, until I was working in breast clinic. Even though it is such a prevalent and emotional disease, breast cancer has, on average, extremely good prognosis – and giving people good news and being part of their journey was rewarding and fulfilling,” she said.
After her residency, Ivanov had a one-year breast surgery fellowship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. While at Northwestern, she also enrolled in the Master in Business Administration program. Completing that degree is one of her professional goals.
“I see that medicine is an art and a science, but understanding the intricacies of medicine as a business was not taught in medical school. It was actually looked down upon,” Ivanov said. “That may be one of the reasons we are in such a mess in healthcare, because doctors themselves don’t view it as a business. It is hard to combine medicine and compassion with the financial aspect, but I think it will make me a more effective doctor. If I can run things more efficiently, I may be able to reach (patients) I can’t right now,” she said.
The importance of connecting with patients is an appreciation Ivanov developed as a young girl. “My love for medicine was heavily influenced by my family. Even though both of my parents are electronic engineers, my grandmother, Lyubov Opanasyuk, was a legend. She was the first female maxillofacial surgeon in the Ukraine. ... Her drive and love for surgery inspired me and my brother, who is an ER doctor in Miami,” she said.
“My grandmother was well-respected and you could see she was doing tangible good for people. I knew that’s who I wanted to be. It was a feeling of goodness and accomplishment that came out of her work. Thank-yous are what she thrived on,” Ivanov said.
The company that brought Ivanov’s father to work in the U.S. eventually arranged for the whole family to emigrate and the 16-year-old first stepped onto American soil in 1992. “Our Ellis Island moment was at JFK airport” in New York, she said. Adapting to a new life in America was one of the greatest challenges of her life, she said, crediting her family for being “the cornerstone of my success.”
As she was shopping for malpractice insurance in Chicago about three years ago, Ivanov met John Ellsworth. “He took care of those (business) needs and before I knew it, we were dating and he was down on one knee,” she said. The couple married two years ago. He has seven siblings in the Chicago area, so leaving there to move to the Orlando area was a big decision for both he and Ivanov.
“But John saw how excited I was” about the job prospect at Florida Hospital “and he loves his wife. ... I would have moved to the moon for this opportunity,” Ivanov said. “I am extremely grateful to him for making this happen for us as a family.”
Ivanov said that even though “we actually miss the snow,” John and she are getting used to Florida. They work out together at the hospital gym regularly and play tennis at least once a week.
Ivanov also loves to cook. She pronounced John “a wonderful sous chef. We have a lot of fun in the kitchen.” She developed one of her specialties in a gourmet class in Chicago: French fruit tarts.
But for a comfort food that takes her back to her Ukrainian roots, you just can’t beet Ivanov’s favorite: bortch. She prepares it every week.