COOKEVILLE – The fast pace. The availability of new developments and treatments. And more personalized cancer care for patients. All three are major reasons why Dr. Hemamalini Karpurapu initially entered the medical field, and today, those same drivers are exactly what led her to her present-day position at The Cancer Center at Cookeville Regional Medical Center.
Karpurapu is the area’s newest medical oncologist/hematologist, meaning she works day-in and day-out with both cancer patients and patients with blood diseases.
Originally from India, she moved to the United States in 2006 for her internship and residency at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. She initially received her medical degree from Guntur Institute of Medical Sciences/Guntur Medical College at the NTR University of Health Sciences in the southern part of her native country. She also practiced in the West Indies for two-plus years after medical school, an experience she said gave her “confidence” in what she was doing.
Her inspiration and encouragement to be a physician came largely from her mother, she said, who had always wanted to be a doctor herself. Karpurapu found her home in oncology during residency.
“That’s when I really got to see the good side of oncology, and that’s what interested me most,” she said. “With all the new research that’s going on, the fast pace, I like keeping up with the new developments.”
She’s been at Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) for a couple months. The Cancer Center, which has experienced a growth spurt over the past couple years, seemed to offer her the perfect combination based on what drove her to medicine in the first place.
“I very much like The Cancer Center; there’s access to radiation oncology and medical oncology (services) almost back-to-back, and all the support we have in terms of surgeons and pathology (etc.) is great,” Karpurapu said. She also liked the availability of clinical trials, she said, which is an area CRMC has worked hard to expand. The Cancer Center has offered studies, for example, for patients with prostate, colon, breast and lung cancer. Lung cancer, Karpurapu said, being more common here than other geographical areas she has practiced.
“Our clinical trials here are very, very good,” she said. “That’s a very good aspect that we can offer patients, and they don’t have to drive very far to have access to those.”
Karpurapu is one of three such oncologist/ hematologist specialists at the Cancer Center today. While there’s expected to be a physician shortage overall in the next few decades – a gap of more than 90,000 in 10 years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Karpurapu said the American Society of Clinical Oncology predicts a shortage of oncologists as well, specifically by 2025 – mostly attributed to the Affordable Care Act, patients who previously were without care will now have access.
“They will either detect cancer earlier or patients who had no access to care will now have access to it,” Karpurapu said.
Outside of work, Karpurapu likes to explore new places and try new cuisines. She’s made it a personal goal, she said, to travel more. Her husband, who is also a physician, is set to join CRMC in July. He’s a specialist in gastroenterology, which deals with diseases and conditions of the stomach, intestines, gallbladder and more. The couple has a 4-year-old son.
When asked if Cookeville and CRMC has met her expectations so far, the answer was an overwhelming “yes.”
“The people here are so nice,” she said. “The first month or so was a little harder transitioning to new systems, but I’m on track now. I hope to help patients (dealing with devastating diagnoses), because we can offer great care even in the terminal stages. We can do a lot of good for them.”
Dr. Hemamalini Karpurapu is a hematologist/oncologist at The Cancer Center at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. For more information, call (931) 783-2497 or visit www.crmchealth.org.