How did you become interested in cancer care and oncology?
I have been fascinated with the field because of the science involved, and it always interested me. As I entered the field, I realized it’s a very personal specialty, as well, because of the relationships we develop with our patients.
What is the high risk breast cancer surveillance program?
The high risk breast cancer surveillance program developed out of our interdisciplinary breast program that meets every week. We recognized there are several groups of patients who are at higher risk to either develop a breast cancer or to have a brand new breast cancer develop after a previous battle with cancer. We combine the skills of radiology, surgeons, oncology and genetic counselors to identify those patients and decide who needs further genetic testing. So the whole team together is the high risk surveillance team, and there are several entry points into that high risk program. Patients may be identified at the time of the routine mammography, or when patients see their primary care physician in the Sanford system or any patient who has seen one of the Sanford surgical specialists who have a keen interest in cancer surveillance and early detection.
Tell us about your family.
I am married to a physician, Alla Zamulko, MD, and live with my in-laws, who are all from the Ukraine, so I have a very exciting family life at home. I am very slowly learning the Russian language, which is quite difficult. I have a daughter who attends Sioux Falls Lincoln and belongs to the Lincoln Marching Band, and a niece we are very close to who goes to O’Gorman. I also have four older children who are in college or on their own.
When you're not learning Russian, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy photography, especially macrophotography of insects. It’s part of my fascination with science. I especially like tiger beetles. That’s the premier insect entomologists like to collect because they have very intricate patterns and have very specialized habitats, and also there is a finite number of them so you don’t have to try to photograph the three million species of all insects.
Can it be challenging to stay upbeat in your field?
I think focusing on the fact we still help every patient, even if we do not cure every patient, is very important. That’s what patients want. Patients are smart. They realize not every battle is going to be won, but they want a physician who is going to be there with them and help them, and that’s something I can do every day.
Do you think we'll see a cure for cancer?
I think we will see major advances in my lifetime, and whether we will completely cure cancer I think is a dream that will come true someday, maybe not in my lifetime.
What do you find most rewarding in your work?
There’s no question we can do an enormous amount of healing and relief of symptoms, and some patients we can cure. We don’t win every battle, but we certainly can help every patient.
To learn more about Dr. Keppen, visit www.sanfordhealth.org/physicianfinder.