NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.
Jennifer Paruch, MD, Gastroenterology at NorthShore, is one of the colorectal surgeons leading the way with minimally invasive surgical treatment for colon and rectal cancer, and helping with improving patients’ recovery from surgery. When she is not educating patients on preventing colon cancer, she is practicing what she preaches by spending time outdoors with a hike or skiing.
Get to know Dr. Paruch, the physician behind the mask:
What attracted you to the field of medicine? Was there a particular moment of realization? Where did it all start?
I didn’t have a single ‘moment’ of realization. I think it was a combination of a lifelong interest in science and anatomy, and being inspired by the people who work in medicine. I feel lucky to work in an area where we come to work believing in what we do every day.
When did your attention turn to colorectal surgery? What led you to this specialty?
I like to have a lot of variety in what I do. Colorectal surgery is a fantastic field because it involves clinic, endoscopy and surgery. There is also a lot of variety in the types of procedures and diseases that I treat. I have been fortunate to have had some amazing mentors that drew me to this specialty.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
There are lots of things that I like about my job. I find that many patients come to me with problems that they feel uncomfortable talking to other physicians about, and I really enjoy being able to help them.
You recently spoke about minimally invasive surgical treatment for colon and rectal cancer. What does that look like and how can patients advocate for this?
We are always trying to find ways to make surgery easier on patients while still providing them with the best cancer care. One way that we do that is by using laparoscopic or robotic surgery to perform the surgery. When patients with colon or rectal cancer are seeing a surgeon, they should ask whether the surgeon offers these approaches and whether the patient is a candidate. Another way we are trying to minimize the stress of surgery is through an Enhanced Recovery pathway, which we have been using at NorthShore for over a year. We find that the pathway is allowing patients to spend less time in the hospital and use less pain medications after surgery.
What is your biggest inspiration in continuing to do research and advancements in your field?
My biggest inspiration comes from the patients that I see every day.
Besides medicine, what is your passion and how does it inspire you?
I love the outdoors, and outside of work I spend a lot of time hiking and skiing. I find that spending time in nature and unplugging is great for resetting my perspective and organizing my priorities. It also reminds me that we need to take care of each other and our environment.