Meet Dr. Cynthia Chao, general and vascular surgeon
Fri, Aug 27, 2021
What she most enjoys is building long-term relationships with her patients and their families, providing care for them on every step of the way through their breast cancer journey. She’s in it for the long haul.
“You meet your patient, you take them through their cancer, you follow them for five years after their cancer, you continue doing their breast exams,” Chao says.
“Breast surgery is really a relationship and that’s what I like about it. You can meet the family and help the family understand everything and help the family help the patient.”
Chao has been in medical practice for more than 25 years. That wasn’t her original plan.
“My parents were both doctors,” she says. “I didn’t want to do medicine because my parents were in it and I saw the long hours.”
Chao’s father was a physician with the U.S. Public Health Service. Her mother was an anesthesiologist. Her father provided medical services in Alaska, where he worked to help stop the spread of tuberculosis when Alaska was still a territory. At the time, the infectious bacterial disease posed a challenge for many native Alaskans.
Born and raised in Anchorage, Chao excelled in school. That led her to Stanford University in Stanford, California, where she earned her undergraduate degree.
Certain she wouldn’t follow her parents’ footsteps, Chao explored other career options.
“I tried teaching but I didn’t like dealing with the parents,” she says. “I tried engineering but I wasn’t very good at that. Back then, computer science was new and I was terrible at it. So, I ended up in biology. With biology there’s only a couple things you can do, research with a drug company or medicine. So, I made it into medicine.”
Chao attended medical school at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.
Her first two years of medical school were typical – lectures, studying, exams. However, finishing medical school was an unforgettable experience.
“My last two years I got pregnant, twice. So, I was doing my rotations while pregnant.” Clinical rotations offer medical students the experience they need to make informed decisions about choosing an area of medicine for their practice.
Chao was completing her urology rotation at a Veterans Affairs hospital when she went from aspiring doctor to patient.
“I was nine months pregnant. My last day in urology I went into labor,” she says. “All these guys were like, ‘Oh, honey, you’re doing fine.’ They were just so cute. These little old men. ‘Honey, take a deep breath.’ They were just so sweet.”
There’s that ever-present smile again.
Urology wasn’t Chao’s calling. Nor was ear, nose and throat medicine. Nor was obstetrics and gynecology. Nor was anesthesia. None compared to the allure of breast surgery, she says.
“I fell into breast surgery because I like talking to people.”
There’s that bubbly personality again.
Chao trained as a surgeon and specialized in breast surgery. She completed her residency in general and trauma surgery at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California.
Afterwards, she served three years as a general surgeon in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Idaho.
“In the military when they send you out to these little bases, they don’t have specialists,” Chao says. “Although I was a general surgeon and I did general surgery, they also taught me how to take tonsils out, how to do a circumcision, how to do vasectomies and all these other things that specialists do in bigger cities that general surgeons kind of end up doing when you’re in the military.”
Serving in the military was a “really great time” in her life, Chao says.
“It’s a nice feeling to be serving your country that way,” Chao says. “You’re still serving but you’re doing what you love to do.”
After serving with the Air Force, Chao practiced medicine in Alaska, Washington and Maine before moving to Wisconsin. Here, she enjoys running and nature photography.
Chao sees patients with surgical issues ranging from breast lumps, breast lactation issues and nipple growths to breast surgery, breast exams and patient counseling.
Building a strong patient-doctor relationship through educating patients is the key to ensuring continued positive surgical and medical outcomes, Chao says.
“You have to really get to know them, what their priorities are and how busy their regular lives are,” Chao says of her patients. “I really try getting to know the patient, bringing them through their surgery and then following them and helping counsel them to get back to a normal, active good life.”
There it is again, Chao and her patients, together for the long haul.
Dr. Cynthia Chao is a breast surgeon with Aurora BayCare General & Vascular Surgery. She sees patients in Green Bay.
About Aurora BayCare
Aurora BayCare Medical Center is a 167-bed, full-service tertiary care hospital located at 2845 Greenbrier Road on Green Bay’s east side. It opened in September 2001 as a joint venture of Aurora Health Care and BayCare Clinic. Aurora BayCare is committed to creating a better way to provide high quality tertiary healthcare, the latest in medical technology and superior service.
About Aurora Health Care
Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin-area health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve health care quality. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Aurora is Wisconsin’s most comprehensive health care provider and the state’s largest private employer. Aurora serves more than 1.2 million patients every year via a comprehensive network of facilities, services and providers, including 15 hospitals, 159 clinics, 70 pharmacies and 30,000 amazing Caregivers. As evidenced by more than 400 active clinical trials, Aurora is dedicated to delivering innovations to provide the best possible care today, and to define the best care for tomorrow. Get helpful health and wellness information via the Aurora MyHealth blog, our Facebook page, our Twitter account and our Pinterest account.
About BayCare Clinic
BayCare Clinic, baycare.net, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.