As a high school student in Brazil, Ana Gleisner, MD, PhD, dreamed of becoming a laboratory scientist. But then a friend went to medical school and Gleisner was intrigued by his passionate descriptions of learning to apply lessons in anatomy and physiology to help diagnose and treat disease. Gleisner realized she would nd this work highly gratifying too.
“The system in Brazil is different than in the United States,” said Gleisner. “If you pass the entrance exam, you go to medical school straight out of high school and it takes six long years to finish.”
After Dr. Gleisner received her medical degree, she completed her residency in general surgery at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, one of the most highly regarded medical schools in Brazil. After residency, Dr. Gleisner completed an abdominal organ transplant fellowship and then joined the clinical faculty at her alma mater, where she performed a variety of complex general surgeries in oncology as well as adult and pediatric organ transplantations.
However, even as a successful surgeon, science kept calling to her. Gleisner accepted a research fellowship at Johns Hopkins University with the plan of getting a PhD to complement her medical degree.
“I was working closely with faculty members in the Division of Surgical Oncology at Johns Hopkins and was fascinated by the multidisciplinary approach to patient care and by how well the specialty lent itself to research and the adaption of innovative surgical techniques,” said Gleisner.
Science and medicine: Suddenly it seemed like Gleisner could have her cake and eat it too. During her research fellowship, she decided she wanted to transition her practice to surgical oncology in the United States.
The road to board certi cation took eight years and wound through Saint Louis University, where Gleisner completed another surgical residency and was chief resident. The journey continued at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center with a fellowship in complex surgical oncology.
Finally it came time to find a new position that could nurture both her MD and PhD sides. And Gleisner wanted to collaborate with other surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and nurses as a team so that patients could bene t from the experience of working with more than one doctor.
“When I was looking for a job, I liked the multi-disciplinary approach of the University of Colorado School of Medicine,” said Gleisner. “It means each patient meets with the team directing their treatment on the same day and leaves with an understanding of what their treatment will entail, based upon the group’s collective expertise. Hopefully, it can provide some peace of mind.”
In addition to the team approach, there were some familiar faces in Colorado. From her time at Johns Hopkins, Gleisner knew the work of Richard Schulick, MD, and Barish Edil, MD, both of whom left Hopkins for the CU School of Medicine. Schulick and Barish were the rst surgeons in the state of Colorado to perform a minimally invasive approach to a very complicated procedure for pancreatic cancer patients.
Gleisner, too, employs minimally invasive techniques. While she performs breast, melanoma, and colorectal procedures, Gleisner’s emphasis is laparoscopic liver surgery.
“Liver procedures performed laparoscopically typically result in less blood loss, less pain, and fewer complications overall,” said Gleisner. “That translates to a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery.”
Gleisner’s research is based in the clinic. One of her tasks is to establish a research data- base following the outcomes of patients who have had liver, pancreas and other gastrointestinal procedures. She believes the database will assist in informing patients and predicting with even more precision which patients will respond to which treatments.
“The idea is that by following patients after cancer surgery through other therapies and beyond, we can identify risk factors and, in a perfect world, prevent potential issues in patients down the road,” said Gleisner.
The path to becoming a physician/scientist may not have been direct, but Gleisner feels at home at CU Cancer Center. She loves Colorado and the opportunity to collaborate with other world renowned physicians in the fight against cancer.
“What we can accomplish together is so much more than what we can accomplish individually,” she says.