As hospital officials began readying the new Center for Breast Health, they needed some recruits.
And they hired two. Dr. Dona Hobart, a Carroll County native, has returned to her roots to serve as the center's medical director. Dr. Gabriel Del Corral, a plastic surgeon, recently came to Carroll and is providing local residents with a new reconstructive surgery option not previously offered in the Western Maryland region.
The two work closely together. Hobart performs the patient's mastectomy or lumpectomy first, and then Del Corral follows immediately afterward to reconstruct the breasts.
Both joined Carroll Hospital Center this summer to offer their different expertise to local residents.
Dr. Dona Hobart
Hobart grew up in Westminster and traveled outside the state to receive her undergraduate degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.
She returned to the state to attend the University of Maryland School of Medicine and most recently was working at Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown.
"I'm just so psyched to help the community that I grew up in," Hobart said. "It's just a lot of fun."
As a surgeon, she gravitated toward working with breast cancer patients. In Hagerstown, she cared for many underprivileged women, which further fueled her passion for helping women combat the disease.
And Hobart knows firsthand how difficult cancer can be.
In 2000, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. It recurred two years later, prompting Hobart to have a bone marrow transplant. And she's been cancer free ever since, Hobart said, miming knocking on wood.
"I can honestly say to these patients that I know how they feel," Hobart said. "Because I know how they feel. And to be able to say that to patients has a meaning."
And watching patients reach remission is rewarding, she said.
"When 10 years go by," Hobart said, "and somebody's still doing well because you took care of their cancer, it just doesn't get any better than that."
Dr. Gabriel Del Corral
Del Corral was born in Panama City and attended medical school at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. He moved to Carroll County from the Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania Health System and Fox Chase Cancer Center to perform plastic, reconstructive and microsurgery locally.
There are three main types of breast reconstructive surgery, one of which he performed often at his previous job but is new to Carroll and the Western Maryland region. And that's called the free flap, where a surgeon takes fat from the abdomen, thigh or buttocks to reconstruct a breast.
The recovery time is a bit longer because the surgery takes more time, but the outcome looks good on the body, Del Corral said.
It allows women to use their own tissue, and sculpts other parts of the body when fat is removed elsewhere to form the breasts, he said.
So far, Del Corral has performed one such surgery at Carroll Hospital Center on Ruth Akers, a 74-year-old woman from Gettysburg, Pa.
Akers was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast in 2005, and Hobart performed two lumpectomies on Akers at Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown.
When breast cancer developed in her right breast this year, she knew she wanted Hobart to take care of her again. So, this time, she went to Carroll Hospital Center.
The decision to have a mastectomy was easy - Akers wanted her family to have peace of mind that their loved one would soon be cancer free. And so was the decision to be the first one to have a free flap surgery performed at Carroll Hospital Center because implants just weren't for her, she said.
While Akers was in the hospital, employees would drop by to take a peek at the outcome.
"They were quite impressed," she said, "and I was too with the surgery."
There are other reconstructive surgeries that Del Corral and other surgeons perform, such as using implants and temporary tissue expanders.
"[These are] all your options in breast reconstruction surgery," Del Corral said, "and we perform everything here. You don't have to go anywhere else."