Collaboration drew radiation oncologist to Metro's cancer center

February 16, 2009
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Joining the University of Michigan Medical School’s clinical faculty and overseeing the new radiology program at the Cancer Center of Metro Health Village is a bit of a homecoming for Dr. Julie Forstner.

Forstner received her medical degree from U-M in 1992, and now has the opportunity to work with some of the same doctors who inspired her career choice in the first place.

“The main thing was the collaboration with the University of Michigan,” said Forstner. “It’s going to allow us to bring certain services that weren’t available before, protocols from the University of Michigan system. It’s going to allow me to grow, because I get to interact with other members of the department on a regular basis, and cases I see are reviewed by faculty members.”

Forstner said she received a call to gauge her interest in the job prior to the announcement that the Metro Health facility would be joining U-M’s Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Radiation Oncology Network in a joint venture. The network links eight sites in the state to radiation treatment experts on the Ann Arbor campus.

“They are people I really enjoyed working with, and people who got me interested in the field to begin with,” Forstner said.

Forstner, who grew up near Detroit in Bloomfield Township and has an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, spent 11 years at Spectrum Health. She came to Grand Rapids after a residency at the University of California in San Francisco.

“I had actually never been to Grand Rapids until I interviewed with Butterworth (Hospital) years ago,” she said. “I was embarrassed when I realized it was only two hours away. I had no idea. It took me a little while to get used to it, and now I really like it.” Forstner, 40, who is fluent in Spanish, lives in East Grand Rapids with her husband, Jay, a writer, and their three children.

Forstner said she loves the intimate atmosphere of the 21,500-square-foot cancer center, tucked into a wooded lot near Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming. The center also hosts an area for chemotherapy treatments. The team includes Dr. Michael Zakem, Dr. Martin Bury and nurse practitioner Stacy Dunning.

Forstner said she hopes to start weekly tumor boards in January, which provide an opportunity for many doctors to review specific cases and to foster research opportunities.

“I like the personal setting of this cancer center,” she added. “I think they’re very excited about it because they’ve always had to send their patients away once they’ve made the diagnosis of cancer. And now they’re able to provide the service here.”

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