Dr. Patti Ann Stefanick 29

Dr. Patti Ann Stefanick

The shelves of Dr. Patti Ann Stefanick’s private office hold a collection of family photos, cards and figurines. Almost lost among them is a very special photograph.

Displayed in a square wooden frame, a snapshot of Dr. Jeanne A. Petrek shows the late breast-cancer pioneer smiling in surgical scrubs as she talks on a hospital ward telephone.

Stefanick says she owes her 20-year career as a Johnstown breast surgeon to Petrek, who was her instructor during a breast-cancer fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

“She was as much of a mentor to me as anybody I’ve ever known,” Stefanick said. “She said, as a woman, it’s a wonderful field. She got me started.”

Stefanick’s interest in breast surgery came gradually. She originally thought of specializing in pediatrics.

A surgical rotation at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore opened her eyes to another field. Leaders in that program were so supportive and helpful, she started thinking about surgery.

Another rotation in Tampa, Fla., elevated her interest as she completed her medical degree at University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine.

“They were people who love to teach,” Stefanick said. “They got me excited.”

After completing her surgical internship at Metropolitan Hospital in Philadelphia, Stefanick enrolled in the breast-cancer fellowship at Sloan-Kettering.

“I fell in love with breast care,” she said, describing the relationship that develops with cancer patients.

“I love my ladies – and my guys,” she said. “They become family. They stay part of your life for years and years.”

When she entered the field, prognosis for many breast-cancer patients was not good. Yet she was drawn to those very patients.

“Someone needs to help them,” Stefanick said. “I just felt like I belonged there.”

After completing her training in 1989, Stefanick was recruited to a practice in Johnstown.

The chemistry there was not right, but the Johnstown community hooked her and she stayed.

The attractions of Johnstown included Richard Williams Sr., a lawyer whom she met and married soon after her arrival.

A native of Linden, N.J., outside New York City, Stefanick says she’s adjusted well to western Pennsylvania.

“I love it here,” she said.

“Compared to northern New Jersey, this is like living in heaven.”

Her office at 939 Menoher Blvd. in Southmont was like a second home for her three children when they were younger.

A nursery in an attached room allowed her to keep them close during office hours.

“My patients saw them learning how to walk in the hallways,” Stefanick said, illustrating the familial relationship that she shares with her patients.

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