Skip Navigation Celebrating America's Women Physicians
Changing the face of Medicine Home Visit Physicians
Resources Activities Share your Story

Biography
Return

 Return 

Dr. Janet Rose Osuch





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1948


Medical School

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
Michigan


Career Path

Surgery: Oncology
Education: Teaching
Dr. Janet Rose Osuch



Milestones

YEAR
1991
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Janet Osuch founded the Comprehensive Breast Health Clinic at Michigan State University.
YEAR
2002
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Janet Osuch was the first woman in the history of Michigan State University to achieve the rank of full professor in surgery.
YEAR
1992
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Janet Osuch led efforts that became the model for The National Mammography Quality Standards Act.
YEAR
1992
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Janet Osuch established the first interdisciplinary clinic for breast cancer patients in the community of Lansing, Michigan.


Inspiration

I became a doctor after I became mature enough to acknowledge qualities in myself that seemed to make me suited for such a noble profession. I recognized a strong sense of compassion, a unique ability to listen, a passion for serving people, and a drive for intellectual stimulation and challenge. I strongly believed that these attributes were gifts from God and that it was my responsibility to use them to help the world become a better place. Becoming a doctor answered a calling for me that has led to profound emotional fulfillment in my life.



Biography

Janet Rose Osuch, M.D., is a media spokesperson and national leader in issues of breast health. In 1991 she founded the Comprehensive Breast Health Clinic at Michigan State University, and her work to improve the standards in breast cancer screening led to The National Mammography Quality Standards Act, passed in 1992.

Janet Osuch came from a family with fairly traditional expectations for her. Expecting her to marry, her father nonetheless advised her to study something that would get her a job, "in case anything ever happened to [her] husband." She majored in medical technology and worked in the field for five years before she began to believe that she could be admitted to medical school. After earning her doctor of medicine degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in 1979, she completed a surgical residency at Northwestern University, and has gone to become a nationally known expert in breast health.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, women surgeons were still frowned upon and Dr. Osuch was treated with outright hostility by many established surgeons, who predicted that she would never finish her residency. As she remembers, "It was an extraordinarily lonely time for me. I am truly not sure what made me persist beyond pure stubbornness and the encouragement and support of a handful of surgeons who believed in me."

Dr. Osuch founded the Comprehensive Breast Health Clinic at Michigan State University, and established the first interdisciplinary clinic for breast cancer patients in the Lansing community. She also was the first woman to achieve a full professorship in surgery at Michigan State University.

Dr. Osuch led efforts to improve deficiencies in the quality of mammography in Michigan, resulting in 1989 in new legislation. The standards she established became the model for federal legislation passed in 1992, the National Mammography Quality Standards Act. Dr. Osuch developed an eight-hour curriculum that focuses on screening and counseling women at high risk for developing breast cancer, examination techniques, and diagnosis. Originally intended for use in a program for poor women in Michigan, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adapted the program and sent it to every health department across the nation. It has since been expanded and given to hundreds of U.S. military physicians.

Although a serious illness forced Dr. Osuch to leave her surgical practice in 1998, she completed a master's degree in epidemiology in 2000. She has also channeled the many lessons she has learned over her career into a revised course, which addresses the patient-physician relationship. She is now a tenured professor of surgery and epidemiology at Michigan State University, and is a principal investigator on two breast surgery studies.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

By far, my gender. The oldest of seven children, I grew up with the understanding that my parents' goal was to have enough money to send the boys to college. I had no desire to be educated beyond high school until my father took me on a tour of a state university in my senior year. No one in my family had ever been to college and he told me that if I wanted to be there, that I had to have a major that would allow me to get a job "in case anything ever happened to my husband." I majored in medical technology and worked in the field for five years before I actually believed that I could be admitted to medical school. When I decided to become a surgeon, a whole new set of gender-related challenges awaited me. Some of the surgeons were very hostile to me and many predicted that I would never finish the residency. It was an extraordinarily lonely time for me. I am truly not sure what made me persist beyond pure stubbornness and the encouragement and support of a handful of surgeons who believed in me.

How do I make a difference?

By serving as a passionate patient advocate regarding issues related to breast health and breast cancer.

By being involved in public health, and by working with the media to educate the public about breast-related issues.

By advancing scientific knowledge regarding normal breast development, and breast cancer etiology and diagnosis.

By extensively teaching medical colleagues, residents, students, and nurses about breast health and disease.

By serving as a role model and mentor for young physicians.

By instructing medical students about the qualities that patients desire in their own physicians.

Who was my mentor?

There were so many influential people. My father, who advised me and facilitated my higher education. My mother, who taught me the value of humor and persistence. Dick Kahnoski, M.D., one of my med tech students, who encouraged me to apply with him to medical school. Ruth Hoppe, M.D., a medical school teacher and role model. Richard E. Dean, M.D., who mentored me into surgery and hired me out of residency. Edward Scanlon, M.D., my surgical oncology fellowship director. Milo Barrera, M.D., Joe Durham, M.D., and Steve Sener, M.D., surgery residents with me who encouraged me and without whom I would not have survived. Last and most important, David P. Winchester, M.D., who encouraged me to continue surgical residency when my spirits were the lowest, and whose drive for excellence and compassion for his patients served as my inspiration throughout my residency and beyond.

How has my career evolved over time?

An illness resulted in the loss of my surgical practice of thirteen years, in 1998. I still miss my patients tremendously and always will. Now, however, I have more time to teach, which I love. I obtained a master's degree in epidemiology in 2000, which made me more prepared to conduct the research in public health that is so important to me. When I obtained my M.D. degree, I had no idea that I would become a media spokesperson, that I would testify before the legislature on behalf of my patients, that I would serve on community boards, or that I would be seen as a community leader. It is with humbleness and gratitude that I accept all of my roles. All are intensely fulfilling.