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Dr. Elisa Port

Mother, Wife, Surgeon

WHAT’S YOUR MOTTO?

Do the right thing.

WHAT’S ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?

So many medical journals, and then I’m always reading something else as well. Lots of non-fiction. Very interested in real-life stories of incredible lives lived: this summer I read Shoe Dog (the Phil Knight/Nike story), and Red Platoon, an incredible account of war in Afghanistan, every American should read it. Currently reading Tribe by Sebastian Junger, one of my favorite writers.

WHAT GIVES YOU GOOSE BUMPS?

When a patient comes in years after her surgery, cured of breast cancer, and I see her life is back to normal, and we talk about things that have nothing to do with cancer. To have taken someone through that journey, having met her during one of the darkest moments of her life, and have her come out on the other side back to living a full life, it’s amazing. I never get tired of it.

WHAT IS YOUR BAD DAY BACKUP PLAN?

When I have to give a patient bad news, or things don’t go well at work, it really stays with me, and there really is no good back up plan for that. When I have a personal setback, getting a good workout in, or a long run gets the endorphins going, helps me to think more clearly through problems, and always makes me feel better. And if that doesn’t work there is always a glass of red wine and a good night’s sleep!

WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?  

Health: mine, my family’s, and my patients’.

My terrific children, and my incredible husband.

Having found work that I am completely passionate about, that is more of a mission than a job, and that involves equal parts mental and physical skill sets. I love that my job involves my brain AND my hands.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?

Coming home at the end of the day, knowing that I have done good in the world and made a difference in someone’s life.

BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

Keep at it.

BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GIVEN?

Try not to worry about things that are out of your control.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW THAT YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT?

Thinking about the next book! Also we have some very exciting research initiatives going at the Dubin Breast Center and Mount Sinai that will impact the way women with breast cancer will be treated and cured in the future. It is so exciting to see progress being made, and relatively quickly.

HOW DO YOU PRESS PAUSE?

After the end of a long week (which is every week), going to synagogue with my family on Friday night for Shabbat services, and just sitting and gelling out, reflecting on the week, listening to our amazing cantor sing, it’s literally a religious experience!

Getting into the ocean.

Going for a run while listening to classic rock or one of my kids playlists in my earphones.

Having family dinner at home with our tight group of friends.

WHAT DID YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF LOVE DOING?

Going to the ocean on weekends in San Diego, and disappearing into the water for hours at a time, getting pummeled by wave after wave.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE MAGIC POWER WHAT WOULD IT BE?

My work, curing cancer, actually feels like having a magic power. When patients get good results, which is, thankfully, most of the time, it feels like magic, but magic that we work very hard at achieving.

Other than that? I wish I could see certain things into the future, but not all.

WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT?

Talking to patients and operating. I am so fully engaged and focused that when I finish, I am sometimes sweating from hypoglycemia.

WHAT 3 THINGS WOULD YOU GRAB IN A FIRE?

As long as the kids and the husband are safely out, 1) my wallet/passport (I’m very practical, and just thinking about what the annoyance and effort it would take to replace all the credit cards, documents,etc, gives me chest pain).  2) two pairs of earrings: one my late grandmother gave me that I got married in (that I want to hand down to my daughter) and a second pair my husband bought me for our 20th anniversary, and 3) old pictures that I haven’t yet gotten around to getting scanned!

WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE – YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE?

Being pregnant and then having my first baby while being a surgery resident. I look back on it and have no idea how my husband and I got through it. In those days, there was no maternity leave, much less paternity leave. So I went back to work, staying overnight in the hospital every other night and working 120 hours a week, 2 weeks after having my son. Being on call in the hospital, operating all night, away from my newborn, was rough. And we had no family nearby to help out. But I am so thankful that I was able to finish my training, go on to have a rewarding career in surgery, AND have a family. It was by far, the hardest thing I have ever done, mentally and physically, but with the greatest reward.

FAVORITE WORD? WHY?

Love. Any sentence with this word in it can only mean good things.

FAVORITE WORK OF ART? WHY?

I love anything by George Condo, John Currin, Rachel Feinstein, and Lorna Simpson. I think they are all brilliant.

FAVORITE BOOK? WHY?

It sounds crazy, but my own! It’s my favorite book because of what it represents to me. Writing “The New Generation Breast Cancer Book” was one of the best, most rewarding experiences of my life. I worked with phenomenal people to make it a reality. I felt as though there was a need that was not being met for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer who were dealing with being diagnosed in this new age of information overload. It’s basically a guidebook for those newly diagnosed with breast cancer on how to navigate the process without falling into the information abyss online, and it’s filled with insider’s advice on how to get the best care for one’s individual case.  And I will be happy if it helps even one woman diagnosed with breast cancer get the best care and remain optimistic.

To learn more about Dr. Port check out her book, The New Generation Breast Cancer Book, and follow her at:

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I wish you all the best,

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