Wendy Woods-Swafford, M.D., M.P.H., is the Medical Director of the Blank Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. She specializes in pediatric oncology and hematology. She and her husband Eric have 3 children, ages 9, 11, and 14.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family
My husband Eric and I landed in Des Moines on accident. We were headed home to Kansas City after an interview in Iowa City. We decided to take I-235 through the heart of the city instead of bypassing on I-80 as we had done several days before. We spotted Blank from the interstate and excited to see the children’s hospital. The rest is history.
I met some amazing individuals from Blank and ultimately decided to pursue my training there. I was in Des Moines only a few months before my life and career path were changed forever by 3 amazing oncology families treated at Blank. Eric and I subsequently moved to Nashville where I completed my peds heme onc training and a master’s degree at Vanderbilt. While there, we were continually reminded of the experiences we had in Des Moines and realized that was ultimately the place we wanted to raise our family. We have been married for over 18 years, we have three children ages 9, 11 and 14.
What do you consider the biggest challenge of motherhood to be? The biggest joy?
I am a perfectionist and I want to do this (motherhood) “the right way”. The only problem is there is no “right way”. Each of my kids throws me a curve ball every day. Just when I feel like “I got this!” I realize I really don’t. Ultimately, we have such a short time to instill in them the faith and values that will lead to self-reliance and compassion for others.
The greatest joy is the moment when you see, despite all the odds stacked against you, that they are becoming the amazing individuals you prayed they would be.
How long have you been a doctor? What is your current role? Why did you choose to work in oncology?
I graduated from medical school in 2002. I started working at Blank as an oncologist after completing my pediatric hematology oncology fellowship at Monroe Carroll Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in 2008. I am board certified in pediatrics, pediatric heme/onc and hospice and palliative medicine. My current role is the Medical Director of the Blank Cancer and Blood Disorder’s Center. I usually tell people I did not “choose” oncology but felt it was chosen for me. When I graduated from med school I thought I would pursue allergy and immunology. Several months into my intern year, my life course changed. I loved the intensity and breadth of science that the oncology patients required coupled with the longevity of our follow up and the relationships we have with our families. I am inspired and awed by the families I care for – by their strength, faith, and humor navigating through a parent’s worst nightmare. I wish the world could glimpse at the beauty of the human spirit that I see regularly; families and friends supporting one another when hope is lost; communities coming together to support their neighbors through tragedy.
What’s the best part about your job?
We practice on the cutting edge of pediatric cancer therapy in a time where knowledge and medicine are changing every day. We work for a single cooperative research group (The Children’s Oncology Group) that encompasses pediatric cancer centers throughout the world. With this collaboration, the overall survival rates for childhood cancer have increased from 10% to nearly 90% in only 40 years. We are blessed to live in a time where discoveries are rapidly improving survival and to live/work in a community that supports our mission.
What’s the hardest part about your job?
Losing the battle with a family, or losing a family to the battle.
What is something you wish you had known when you became a doctor?
I was raised to believe I could do anything I wanted to, I could be a mom, a wife, and a doctor. What I didn’t know is that it is impossible to give each of those 100% all the time. You have to find the balance, or you will lose yourself.
What’s the last show you watched, thing you listened to, or book you read?
Fixer Upper, Taylor Swift (mom of 2 Swifties!), “The Telomere Effect”
If your life had a hashtag, what would it be?
#THINK. – it’s the dialogue we have at home – was it Thoughtful, helpful, inspiring, nurturing, or kind
Des Moines Favorites:
Favorite spot for a date night: Trostel’s Dish – it’s easy, close, and always reliable
Best place to take kids: Flix Brewhouse
Favorite summer activity: Vacation at Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake
If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Honestly – for this phase, right here. We have an incredible community and amazing school (GO DMC LIONS!). I wouldn’t raise my family anywhere else.
Favorite instagram accounts? House of Belonging, Harvest OC, Mommysinsidevoice, #Wordsmatter
How/where do you relax? Binge-watching Netflix with my kids, “drilling down” with my besties, at Reformer with Katy Kass, or taking a Sunday afternoon nap with E
Check out other Des Moines Moms Movers & Shakers:
See our Des Moines Moms Movers & Shakers series from last summer.
Know a Des Moines mom we should feature? Let us know! Email [email protected] with details and we will be in touch.