Caring for those who are, arguably, among the most immunosuppressed, COVID-19 is a serious concern for Brian Shimkus (Class of 1989), senior medical oncologist with the group he founded, Austin Cancer Center in Austin, Texas. “Even within the medical community, our center is deemed essential. We cannot allow anyone into our office who may have contracted the virus. We serve very time-sensitive patients; chemotherapy cannot be stopped. Keeping our environment safe for our patients is our priority. And I think - at least in our community - we are beginning to see the curve flatten.”
According to Brian, the Austin community embraced the shelter in place mandates with vigor. He describes a community that is highly educated, with one of Austin’s major employers, Apple, leading by example. He credits the tech giant with sending every employee home immediately and ensuring that no one risks exposing themselves or others. Then, he adds, “if Walker is still the school it used to be, I’m sure that both the public systems and private schools in the area are looking to Walker for that same leadership. Those of us who understand this virus and those in leadership must set the standard of response.”
Brian knows that to do otherwise is to overwhelm an already burdened system of care for patients and physicians. There are a finite number of resources for those who can provide the type of care that’s needed. To add individuals into the patient pool - when it’s avoidable - is making the situation much, much harder than it has to be.
Brian Shimkus was lucky enough to always know what he wanted to do. “Even as early as Middle School, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. And I always had an interest in cancer as a disease. It fascinated me.” This Class of ‘89 alum credits our Alma Mater with the connections that helped him cement his interest, referring to a classmate’s father - a physician specializing in Oncology - as his mentor. “Dr. Osmond used to let me visit his practice and would talk to me about the work he was doing to care for Cancer patients. And, when it came time for me to go to college, I followed the path he had taken and went to Emory University.”
From Emory, Brian attended the Medical College of Georgia and then fulfilled his residency and internship at The University of Virginia. He completed an oncology fellowship at The University of Wisconsin Cancer Center.
“We have to be role models,” Brian adds. “That is what I would ask of our Alumni and our Walker community. To set the example. In our homes and in our communities. Wherever we are.”