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Pepperdine University

Janie Weng Grumley

Seaver College | 2000
Director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center, John Wayne Cancer Institute, Providence St. John's Health Center

What does being an honoree of this campaign mean to you?

It is so wonderful that we are in a time when female leadership is not only supported but celebrated. I am honored to have been asked to be among this group of amazing people.

Describe your success story.

The best way to describe my success story is one of never giving up and never giving in to doubt. When faced with challenges I seemed to have work through disappointments and simply look for a different path. I did not take the traditional route to medical school. I was a competitive figure skater of much of the early part of my life. School has always been important, but it took a back seat as I competed in figure skating. I started my college education at the University of Alberta where I was training. In order to focus on skating, my academic efforts suffered. Even then I knew I wanted to go to medical school, and when I met with counselors they clearly told me I would never be a doctor. Unwilling to accept their doubt, I knew in my heart there was no other career for me.
As I finished my figure skating career I knew if I wanted to fulfill my dream of being a physician I needed change. I transferred to Pepperdine and enrolled in sports medicine at Seaver College. The years at Seaver College allowed me to grow as a student, with personal attention from professors and a stimulating, broad curriculum. In this supportive environment I excelled academically and was accepted in the Keck School of Medicine.

Once in medical school I knew I wanted to be a surgeon. Within the first year I was told on a number of occasions, "Don't be a surgeon," "It's way too hard," "It's a man's world," "Surgery turns women into bitter old maids." I was determined that this would not happen to me. I knew I could be a surgeon, and I could remain human through the process. I would not let this career choice change who I was. Defying tradition, I did not put life on hold while pursuing surgery. I showed up at my internship nine months pregnant. I knew this was not ideal timing but having family was important to my husband and me. As I arrived at the intern welcome barbecue, with my enormous belly, an attending surgeon said to me and my husband, "Well that wasn't a good idea!" In the next five years I went on to prove that it wasn't such a bad idea. I had a second child and worked and operated until the day I went into labor. I was even honored with the Outstanding Chief Resident Award when I graduated.

I graduated from breast fellowship and moved up to Seattle for my first job as a surgical breast oncologist. As a result of my training I was able to bring new approaches and technology in breast cancer treatment to Seattle. I trained my more senior partner in oncoplastic surgery, the use of plastic surgery techniques, and incision in removing cancers to maintain the appearance of the breast and improve patient outcomes. I started the first intraoperative radiation program in the state of Washington, taught residents, and published numerous peer review papers. Despite all this I was told by leadership that I was not leadership material. If I wanted to be a leader I would need to conform to doing as I was told. It was clear to me that I could not grow in this environment. I started to look for other opportunities. I initially saw the opportunity at John Wayne Cancer Institute three years prior to my arrival. I had applied and spoken with the recruiting firm. After our nice discussion I was told I was not suited for the position and that the institute would not be interested. Fast forward two years, when I received a LinkedIn message asking if I would consider being the director of the Breast Oncology and Margie Petersen Breast Center. They had been looking for the right person for many years and thought I may be a fit. In the short time I have been here, we have revived the breast program and brought new excitement, technology, and skill to the center. Most importantly we have brought the human touch to breast cancer care. We set out to make a program that cares about women and their needs. With our new breast health clinic we strive to eliminate unnecessary wait times for women who have symptoms but just want to know they don't have cancer. We established a Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic for women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer to get coordinated care without the hassle of seeing different specialists on different days and different times. They can be seen in one morning or afternoon so that they can have a complete treatment plan. We offer women novel surgical techniques that reduce the need for mastectomy (complete removal of the breast), while maintaining their breast esthetics to keep women feeling whole. We use single-dose intraoperative radiation therapy for those who qualify to minimize the risks of radiation while maximizing disease control.

One of the most exciting parts of my current position is the opportunity to collaborate with forward-thinking researchers at the institute. This allows me to combine my love of science and clinical experience to better the lives of women. I feel truly fortunate to have been given this amazing opportunity to do good and am excited for the future.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

Pepperdine University was instrumental in allowing me to pursue my dream. The enriching academic environment allowed me to blossom academically. The support from Dr. White, the medical school advisor, made me believe that my dream of becoming a physician could become a reality.

Describe a lesson you've learned from a challenging time in your career or life.

Never give up. If I had believed all the doubts and criticism along the way, I would have abandoned my dream.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Lead by example. I try to inspire those around me to work toward a common goal. In our clinic, we are always reminding ourselves we are here to serve those who need us. We have the honor of taking care of patients when they are most vulnerable. It doesn't matter if it's simply answering phone calls or operating, we are here to help those in need.

"Never give up. If I had believed all the doubts and criticism along the way, I would have abandoned my dream.."

 Janie Weng Grumley ('00)

Who has helped you achieve success in your career?

I have had a number of amazing role models in my life. My mother was the first. She was the first female engineer in her college class and had always told me there is no such word as "can't." She instilled in me the attitude that "You can achieve anything you set your mind on." This has served me well.

What's next for you?

I have only been in this position for one year, so I am excited to discover where it will take me. We are looking to expand this program in the next year, and if all works out we will establish a fellowship training program for surgical breast oncology at John Wayne Cancer Institute. This will allow us the opportunity to train the breast surgeon of the future.

What was your first job?

Waitress at a restaurant.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Party planning.

What historical or modern-day leader do you admire and why?

Michelle Obama; she leads by inspiring others to be better.

What is your mantra or favorite quote?

"If there is a will, there is a way."

How do you prepare for a busy day?

Prayer, planning, and having a great partner (my husband who seems to always be able to pick up the slack.)

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

Cooking. I don't get to do it much, but when I do it is usually the best family time.