“My father wanted to be a doctor but couldn't. Then he wanted one of his brothers to be one, and then the same for my brother, but they didn't. Finally he got his wish with me! I wanted to be a doctor ever since the fourth grade.”
Thomas M. Reynolds
“PIONEERING FEMALE SURGEON, TEACHER AND MENTOR”
Nominated by Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-NY-26) to be a Local Legend of Medicine, Nancy Stubbe entered medicine when women were routinely discouraged from the profession. "When I went into surgery in 1959, there were only two women surgeons in New York City and I was the first woman surgeon in western New York State.
"Some of the attending physicians were aghast at my entering a man's realm, but I broke my neck to capture the Chief Surgeon's attention and good will–even holding the door open for him," chuckles Stubbe. "Skill won out and I was taught by the master."
Says a longtime colleague at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, where Stubbe was appointed Clinical Instructor in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in 1967, and, in 1998, was promoted to Clinical Assistant Professor, "She is a true pioneer who forged her way through times of prejudicial thinking to establish an outstanding practice in breast cancer surgery. Students love her gentle and professional demeanor. She has encouraged many women to become physicians and has mentored them along the way."
Remarks Rep. Reynolds, "We are incredibly fortunate to have an individual in our region with such extraordinary devotion and ability."
Stubbe believes being a good surgeon means more than being good with your hands. "You have to think through everything, be familiar with all the procedures and know what to expect in emergencies; have a picture of the whole operation, down, down, down, so that you know where you're going and can be prepared for whatever happens.
When it comes to technique, she believes, "The more experience you have, the better." But teaching good 'bedside manner' is tough. "You have to show them by example," she declares. "You have to be a caring person. I know and follow my patients for years; they're entrusting me with their lives."
After more than 40 years in practice, Stubbe has reduced her surgeries to a dozen or so per month–"This requires keeping in shape!"– but still maintains a busy schedule teaching and examining patients.
"Nothing is more satisfying than a career in medicine–even the bad stuff," she states. "Helping people, it's very satisfying. People are very respectful and you develop real friendships, with colleagues and patients." However, she is realistic about the demands medicine can place upon women physicians. "It is very difficult to be a doctor, especially a surgeon, and have a family," she cautions. "But there are lots of specialties from which to choose– and you can pick the right husband!"
Stubbe foresees a more high-tech, less hands-on future for medicine and is not sure that's such a great thing. "Genetics research is very exciting, an absolute plus for everyone but will it sacrifice the caring, human element?" she wonders.
In her "spare" time, Stubbe is an avid, award-winning amateur photographer and a tireless volunteer for local, regional and national organizations, including the National Organization of Women, which recognized her with its 1994 Women of Achievement Award, and the American Medical Association.
Earns M.D. from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Becomes staff member, Buffalo Medical Center, Buffalo, NY
Appointed Clinical Instructor and, 1998, Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo
Elected a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons
President, Erie County Chapter of the American Cancer Society
Co-Founder, Acute Crisis Committee–Physicians Helping Physicians, Erie County Medical Society
Named Woman Physician of the Year, Kaleida Health System, Buffalo
Honored with Teaching Award Plaque, SUNY at Buffalo
Recognized as Mentor, University of Buffalo School of Medicine
Awarded 40-year Recognition Pin, SUNY at Buffalo
Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia