Anne Wallace aims to improve women’s health


Surgeon Anne Wallace, M.D., professor of clinical surgery at the UCSD School of Medicine, is leader of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center’s Breast Care Team. Recruited more than a decade ago to expand the breast surgery program at the center, she has extensive experience in all aspects of breast health, specifically breast cancer and breast reconstruction.

A leader in clinical research, she is interested in the development of new imaging technologies for treatment and detection of cancer. In addition to seeing new patients and performing breast and reconstructive surgery, she is also involved in chemoprevention and counseling, particularly for high-risk patients.

Wallace is a 2009 recipient of the prestigious San Diego YWCA Tribute to Women & Industry (TWIN) Award, which honors women for their outstanding achievement, leadership and contributions to their organizations, and she has been named as a Top Doctor in San Diego Magazine several times. She has also served in leadership roles in the California Breast Cancer Research Council and the Golden Triangle Division of the American Cancer Society, and lectures widely, frequently speaking to local organizations about the importance of good health and cancer prevention.

What brought you to La Jolla?

I came from Washington, D.C., after my general surgery residency to do a plastic surgery residency at UCSD. At that time, we rented a house in the Village. After a fellowship in Houston, we came back to UCSD and “fell” into a little house in Bird Rock, not knowing anything about the area. We later learned that the neighborhood was full of new young families and that the schools were great. We’ve been in Bird Rock ever since.

What makes La Jolla special to you?

The sense of neighborhood is just amazing. It’s very much like a small town; we run into people all of the time. And there’s nothing like the Beaumont Fourth of July Parade!

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

I’d love to see fewer of my neighbors getting breast cancer. That’s a very serious answer, but it is heartbreaking to see how many of our friends and family are suffering with this disease in our own backyard. Of course, I’d like to see the same for all of San Diego.

Who or what inspires you?

My answer is different today than it might have been years ago. Today, it is my young patients with breast cancer, who are sometimes as young as their mid-20s to early 30s. These women are incredible, often young mothers, and they never lose their spirit. They keep me coming to work every day.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I would invite my mother, who died when I was fairly young, particularly so she could meet her grandchildren. Having grown up in Washington, D.C., I’ve always been interested in our nation’s history and would like to be able to talk with Benjamin Franklin. I’d invite Dr. Mary Walker, who was the first woman surgeon in the Army and cared for hundreds of civilians during the Civil War. We’re a big swimming family, so I’d invite Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin. I’d have to invite several actors who my family has enjoyed over the years - Michael J. Fox and Sarah Michelle Gellar, to name two. Finally, I would invite Barack Obama. I would so like to have my voice heard as a hard-working professional in our country.

What are you currently reading?

I read medical journals, grant proposals, etc. all the time. So when I read novels, which I don’t have a lot of time for, it’s usually something entertaining, but not particularly profound.

What is your most prized possession?

My family by far is my most prized possession, if you can refer to your family as a “possession.” My two boys are awesome.

What do you do for fun?

I’m very much into fitness. I run, bike, lift weights and am always trying to improve. I love all sports, particularly football and baseball. And sometimes I do just like to “hang out” with my kids.

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

I think I’ve accomplished a good balance between motherhood and work. I am one of the busiest surgeons at UCSD, but I work odd hours so that I do see my kids. My husband and I really work well together, and through his tremendous support, I have been able to manage work and home.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Try to do the right thing every day by listening to your instincts and working extremely hard, and in the end, everything will be OK.