People: Jennifer Erdrich, M.D., MPH

Surgical Oncologist and Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine

Photo by Thomas Veneklasen

Q: Where were you born?

San Diego

Q: How did you become interested in your career field?

I knew that I wanted to be a doctor, but had no clue I would become a surgeon. I was so convinced I would never choose surgery that I made it my last required rotation in medical school. I thought I was decided on internal medicine, and then my surgical rotation swept me away. The hours were longer but the clock turned faster because every minute was so enthralling.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of your job?

The time commitment. The training leading up to now and the job itself take everything you’ve got, which surgeons do because we love it, but the hardest part is that it demands so much of our loved ones.

Q: What is the greatest reward of your job?

Working with patients is a privilege. They trust us to make decisions and actions on their behalf when they are under anesthesia, and the honor of that relationship astounds me. As a surgical oncologist, a reward we hope to make happen for as many people as possible is telling them they are cancer-free.

Q: Do you have any family members in Tucson?

I do now! I met my husband here and since he grew up in Tucson I picked up a bunch of family members.

Q: What was the last book you read, and what did you enjoy the most about it?

Funny you should ask. I am working on a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA). Just yesterday I finished an assigned novel, Blue Ravens by Gerold Vizenor. He is White Earth Ojibwe and my father is Turtle Mountain Ojibwe. This was a unique book experience because I got to read the work of a prolific writer who shares our heritage and depicts a geographic region that is my home away from home.

Q: What’s your favorite food indulgence?

Ice cream.

Q: In 20 words or less, describe your perfect day.

After a full-night’s sleep, I would tap dance, sip coffee, go hiking, tangle with literature, and dine with family.

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