When breast surgical oncologist Monet Bowling, MD, is in a room with a patient, everything outside of the door ceases to exist. She rolls her chair to the center of the room, and knee-to-knee with her patient and their loved ones, she begins to speak — empathy and determination in every word.
Nothing else matters at this time but connecting with her patient in a pivotal moment that will forever change a woman's life. This is the moment where breast cancer becomes reality, and the journey through treatment into survivorship begins.
Finding her calling
As a surgeon, Dr. Bowling has finely honed skills that come from years of medical training. But the gift that led to her life's passion of practicing medicine is her innate ability to talk to others. "My mother calls it 'moving the room.' I have always been able to talk to people, even when it's hard. It's about connecting with them and relating to what they are going through."
Dr. Bowling remembers the exact day during her third year of residency when she knew she was meant to be a breast surgeon. "I was asked to tell a patient—she was related to a friend of mine—that she had breast cancer. She was 30, the same age as me at the time. I knew that the most important thing was getting her through it, and making sure she knew she wasn't alone and that we had a plan. That moment is why I chose breast surgical oncology."
When she's talking to a patient, Dr. Bowling's well-practiced hands are also drawing. She knows that while some patients understand information better when it is verbally explained, others are visual learners. She sketches the breast and illustrates a patient's diagnosis and treatment, all while drawing upside down so others can easily see her pictures. Patients walk away with both understanding and confidence in what will come next.
Creating a team
Dr. Bowling plays a critical role in bringing world-class breast services to our community. She has visited renowned breast centers to take the very best practices available and bring them together at Hendricks Regional Health.
"We have surrounded ourselves with a team that is truly passionate about what they do. When you build a team of people that are operating within their gift and talents, the result is palpable. Our patients can feel it."
At the Hendricks Regional Health Breast Center, Dr. Bowling works alongside a team of breast care specialists including breast surgeons, nurse practitioners and patient navigators. As part of an overall Cancer Services program, the team is supported by our staff of medical, surgical and radiation oncologists; plastic and reconstructive surgeons; cancer risk and genetic experts; radiologists; dietitians; social workers; physical therapists and others, all collaborating to develop the optimal plan of care. We also work with partners like Cancer Support Community and Livestrong.
Dr. Bowling's patients say she is an inspiration to them, but she would tell you it's the other way around. Watching her patients and their families find joy in life, even despite a difficult journey, has made an enormous impact on her. She embraces an "all in" philosophy in everything she does, including in her role as wife and mother of three.
To help her stay balanced, she is an active runner with Black Girls RUN! and has three full marathons under her belt. "Learning to push my own limits and do what I never thought I'd be capable of keeps me calm and focused. Running helps me become a better doctor."
And back in her office with her patients, you will find Dr. Bowling at her very best. "As women we have the habit of taking care of everyone else first instead of ourselves. I tell my patients to worry about eating right, being healthy, resting—and I'll take care of the rest."