As a nurse, Lynette Pate relied on level-headed composure to carry her through any medical crisis.
As a patient facing a cancer diagnosis, Pate experienced the same emotions she had witnessed in her own patients.
It was the compassionate response she received that convinced Pate that Dr. Rhiana Menen was the right surgeon to perform her double mastectomy in March.
As they sat together in Dr. Menen’s office and discussed her breast cancer diagnosis, Pate began to cry. Dr. Menen reached out with a gentle touch, sparking a powerful connection.
In that room, Pate wasn’t treated like a nurse, or like the wife of Dr. David Pate, president and chief executive officer of St. Luke’s Health System. Dr. Menen treated Pate like a woman who needed both medical and emotional support.
“She is very straightforward, but her compassionate care is what drove me to her as a surgeon,” Pate said.
Dr. Menen joined St. Luke’s in the fall of 2016 and practices general surgery and breast surgery with St. Luke’s Clinic – Boise Surgical Group. She received her fellowship training in breast surgery at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She is one of only two female surgeons in Idaho who are fellowship-trained in breast surgery.
Dr. Menen grew up in Southern California, but for her husband, Dr. Ryan Shackelford, moving to Idaho was a homecoming. Dr. Shackelford’s parents still live the Boise area, and the move has allowed the entire family to spend more time together. Dr. Shackelford is a psychiatrist and associate medical director at Terry Reilly, and he and Dr. Menen share a passion for volunteerism and providing care in underserved communities. Dr. Menen plans to volunteer some of her time at Terry Reilly’s minor procedure clinic.
Her dedication to helping others extends to medical outreach in other countries as well. She made two trips to Kenya between August 2016 and January 2017 and has taken medical trips to India and Mexico as well.
“I feel really passionate that you can give people world-class care wherever they live,” she said.
Dr. Menen wanted to pursue a career in medicine as a child, although she is a classically trained ballerina and could have had a career in ballet. There are similarities between the two fields; both require discipline, dedication and precision.
She has found her sweet spot in Boise, working in what she calls her “dream job” because it allows her to strike a balance between working as a general surgeon and breast surgeon and to work closely with the staff at St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute.
Pate and Dr. Menen shared a common bond – both have connections to Houston – and Pate also appreciated the focused training Dr. Menen had in breast surgery.
“The fact that she is so recently trained gave me the confidence that she knew all the cutting-edge techniques.”
It was late February when Pate discovered a lump in her breast during a self-exam. It felt like a BB, something she hadn’t found in previous self-exams.
She made an appointment with her OB/GYN for the following Monday. Her provider felt that same lump (in her right breast), but he also felt something she hadn’t caught on the left side. She was subsequently diagnosed with grade 3 ductal carcinoma.
Pate consulted with surgeons who could present her with treatment options. She felt at ease with Dr. Menen because of the warmth she showed during their conversation, her extensive training in breast surgery and her approach regarding decision-making.
Dr. Menen told Pate she could make her own decision regarding her treatment. She followed up by saying she would not let Pate make a wrong decision.
The Pates’ daughter, Laurie Martin, also appreciated the way Dr. Menen acknowledged the emotions that would accompany cancer treatment.“She told us that part of treating this is the emotions and anxiety that are affected,” Martin said. “She said she is here to address those things, too.”
Chereen Langrill is a former communications coordinator for St. Luke’s Health System