“Both of my parents are doctors–pathologists, so that had a significant impact on me; I grew up around it. I was always interested in helping people and wanted to care for patients.”
Raul M. Grijalva
“THE "DOCTOR TO SEE" ALONG THE ARIZONA-MEXICO BORDER ”
Along Arizona's long, hot border with Mexico, Ana Maria Lopez is legendary among the local women as the "doctor to see" if someone is suffering from cancer says Alison Hughes, who directs the Rural Health Office of the University of Arizona's College of Public Health.
"I have no idea how she manages her daily routine, but she does so brilliantly and seamlessly," Hughes remarks of her colleague. Lopez has served as Medical Director of the university's Telemedicine Program and Women's Health Initiative since their inception in 1997, and is also Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine and Pathology at the Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona.
"She always makes time to help," says Hughes, adding, "Her fluency in Spanish and English, and her cultural sensitivity as a Hispanic woman help to bridge many communication gaps within our medical school." (A native of Bolivia, Lopez was six years old when the family immigrated to Chicago, a high school junior when they moved to Arizona.)
Nominating her as a Local Legend of Medicine, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-7) was equally complimentary: "Ana Maria is exceptionally outgoing, a people person committed to her career who continues to strengthen her knowledge of medicine and the patients she serves."
"To care for people is an incredible privilege," Lopez says of being a doctor, a career she especially commends to young women. ""I tell all my students, 'The secret of caring for a patient is to care for the patient.' If they keep that focus, they'll do the right thing. In medicine, you're always learning and that keeps things exciting."
An experienced researcher and contributor to medical journals and author of many book chapters on diverse topics ranging from the health of Native Americans to the clinical practice of telemedicine, Lopez was named one of the Best Doctors of Tucson in 2004, following her selection to the "Best Doctors in America" lists in both 2002 and 2003.
Her contributions as Medical Director have helped the Telemedicine Program become one of the nation's best at providing telemedicine services, distance learning, informatics training and telemedicine technology assessment capabilities. It was established in 1996 to increase access to specialty care for the medically underserved, including Arizona's ethnic minorities.
Lopez also is the Principal Investigator for a four-year grant "Examining Barriers to Minority Participation in Cancer Clinical Trials" which seeks to determine whether the beliefs of ethnically distinct populations affect the accrual of Latino/Hispanic participants to cancer clinical trials.
Interested also in what role, if any, physical activity has in supporting the physical and emotional recovery of cancer patients, she conducted a pilot study with breast cancer patients which suggested a positive trend in quality of life for structured, group-led, internally directed physical activity. Similar studies are being developed for colon cancer and ovarian cancer survivors.
Reflecting on her life as a clinician, researcher and teacher, Lopez believes it is important for doctors to have a plan but be open to change. "For example," she counsels, "I never knew what telemedicine was but I took the opportunity when it came along. The lesson: realize your path may grow."
Instructor and counselor in Women's Health Care, Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women, Philadelphia
Student delegate to the Seventh World Congress of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Moscow, Russia
Earns MD and begins three-year residency in Internal Medicine, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson; becomes Chief Medical Resident 1991
Appointed Instructor, Social Behavioral Sciences and Preparation for Clinical Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Arizona
Becomes Research Assistant Professor of Medicine, Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona
Appointed Medical Director of both the Telemedicine Program and the Women's Health Initiative, Health Sciences Center, University of Arizona
Becomes Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona
Named one of the "Best Doctors of Tucson"
Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia