Colleen Rivard, MD, M Physicians gynecologic oncologist, always knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was a kid. She was exposed to the medical field at a young age through her father, who is a nurse anesthetist.
She completed her undergraduate degree at Notre Dame and attended medical school at Loyola University of Chicago.
“When I originally started medical school, I thought I would do something primary care-related, like pediatrics or medicine, because I wanted to have long-term relationships with patients,” Dr. Rivard said. “But then, I did my first rotation with surgery and loved the procedural aspect of it all, and I did not love my pediatrics rotation.”
It wasn’t until her very last rotation of medical school – obstetrics/gynecology – that she found her passion. Part of that rotation included two weeks of gynecologic oncology.
“I absolutely loved it,” Dr. Rivard said. “It was a combination of everything I had thought I wanted in medicine and everything I actually liked in medical school.”
After completing her residency in Chicago, Dr. Rivard returned to Minnesota to be closer to family and completed a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
“Gynecologic oncology offers the procedural, hands-on, quick gratification of fixing something with your hands, but the difference is, it is the only speciality that operates and also manages chemotherapy and long-term care for women,” Dr. Rivard said.
“From the time we diagnose someone to the time they are cured or pass from their cancer, we are their physician. We get to know the patients and their families really well, which is really special and makes a difference when it is time to have the tough conversations.”
In addition to her appointment with M Physicians, Dr. Rivard is the Oncology Service Line Lead for the Gynecologic Oncology program at M Health Fairview, working to help create the practice standards for gynecologic patients systemwide. One of those efforts is focusing on treating more of the whole patient – not just treating the cancer.
“A lot of the treatments have side effects that affect a lot of different areas of a woman's life, like relationships, sexual function and bowel and bladder function,” Dr. Rivard said. “So, we are working with other specialities to address some of those issues to maximize patients’ quality-of-life as they go through treatment and beyond.”