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Army veteran, Markey doctor finds belonging in medicine

January 25, 2019 / in Cancer, Our people, Women’s health / by UK HealthCare

For our latest Making the Rounds conversation, we caught up with Dr. Charles Dietrich, who joined the UK Markey Cancer Center as a gynecologic oncologist in the fall of 2018. A former Fort Knox physician and past fellow of UK’s gynecologic oncology program, Dietrich is happy to return to Kentucky after retiring as a colonel from the U.S. Army this past summer. Most recently, he practiced at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. Dietrich treats patients with gynecologic malignancies, such as ovarian, endometrial, cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers.

Why did you become a doctor?

I started off in the military. I went to West Point for undergraduate, and in my experience, it became clear that medicine was what I was most passionate about. I always liked helping people out. In the Medical Corps, I felt a real sense of belonging.

How did you choose your specialty?

I went to medical school thinking that I wanted to be in surgery. I’m a hands-on type of person. But as I was rotating through medical school, I really didn’t enjoy my surgery rotation very much.

I did my OB-GYN rotation first, thinking that I would never do this. I was on a rotation with five other individuals, all with similar thoughts about OB-GYN, and we ultimately all fell in love with the specialty, and of those five, all of us wound up in OB-GYN. It was a great medical school rotation. The instructors and residents who were teaching us were very enthusiastic and that really piqued my interest.

During my fourth year, I rotated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on a gynecologic oncology rotation and really saw how incredible this field is. It was robust not only with surgery but very challenging issues. Being able to combine surgery and chemotherapy into a specialty really appealed to my desires and my passions.

What is most rewarding about your work?

You’re dealing with the complexity of the problems that patients have, following them for many, many years, and directing their care, which is very appealing. In oncology, a lot of patients see a surgeon and a separate doctor for their chemotherapy, but in gynecologic oncology, we do all of that. We’re like a one-stop field – everything that the patient has, we can take care of.

What are you most passionate about as a physician?

One area that I really enjoy is global health engagement and humanitarian missions. While I was in the Army, I co-led a mission to Bangladesh where we were working with the United States Agency for International Development to eradicate obstetric fistula. I really enjoy working with underserved population and trying to capitalize on their resources to improve their health systems.

What do you enjoy in your spare time?

I am a pretty passionate cyclist. I get out on my bike at every opportunity that I can. If I could ride every day of the week, I would definitely do it. I’ve found that a little more challenging in Kentucky because it’s cold here – unlike  Hawaii – at least in the winter. I also enjoy running and hiking.

What's on your bucket list?

I have a couple of big rides that I’d like to do some day. I’d like to ride some of the Tour de France hills. I also would love to visit Antarctica. And I’d love to do an expedition to at least the base camp of Mount Everest. I don’t think I want to go all the way to the top but at least the base camp.

Favorite thing about Lexington?

One thing that really is amazing about Lexington is the surrounding farm land and the horse farms. It’s such a beautiful place to get out and ride a bike. The roads here are the best roads that I’ve ever ridden on, and the scenery is very difficult to beat – although Hawaii is pretty close.


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