Dr. Wakenda Tyler

Women to watch: Dr. Wakenda Tyler

Arlene Hisiger  HerRochester.com, November 13, 2013

Her focus on academics has garnered her numerous awards and honors. But it is the practice of compassionate medicine that is her primary concern.

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(Photo: Photo provided by Dr. Wakenda Tyler)

To meet Dr. Wakenda Tyler is to meet energy personified. One gets the sense that she would have sufficient energy to fuel the entire state of New York, and perhaps, beyond.

It is a good thing, too.

Early in life, Tyler needed to tap into her energy reserve to rise above the challenges inherent in a family that, for all intent and purpose, was headed by a single mom, because her dad, at the time, was mired in addictions to drugs and alcohol.

But there were mentors to guide her along the way.

Like her high school track and field coach who told her: "See that girl in the yellow uniform? She's running your pace. Don't let her get a mile in front of you!" Despite joining the team later than the other team members, Tyler ran close behind the girl in the yellow uniform and came in second. That experience taught her a life lesson. "It taught me to have faith in myself, to believe in my abilities beyond what I thought I was capable of," Tyler said.

Ironically, when she was a freshman in college, not heeding her coach's advice became a turning point in her development. Another mentor had urged her to join the honors program. While Tyler knew that being part of the honors program was important, her love of track and field had her torn between the two, unsure of what to devote her time to most.

"You know, in the long run, what's an 'A' in biology compared to running in track and field for four years? It will take you so much further in life," the coach had told her. Luckily, she resisted his attempt to persuade her to make the team the locus of her attention.

"Focus on your academics," Tyler said, in advising others who want to pursue a career in medicine. "An 'A' in chemistry or physics is more important than a party or sports team, not that those things aren't important; just don't let them take precedence over academics."

Tyler underscored the importance of finding good mentors. "Find those who have your best interest at heart," she advised. "Stay away from folks who want to use you."

Her focus on academics has garnered her numerous awards and honors. But it is the practice of compassionate medicine that is her primary concern. "Before a person passes away the final thing that they say stays with you," Tyler said. "What I remember hearing the most is: 'I don't want to suffer.' That's what I keep in mind. Thankfully, today they have better medicines and surgical techniques that make a difference."

But, as an orthopedic surgical oncologist, Tyler certainly has her tough times when a patient is facing imminent death or passes away. It is in the patients who come back and are doing well, cured or their pain minimized, that Tyler says she finds the saving grace to "see life moving on."