Why I Serve: Tracey Gamer-Fanning

Tracey Gamer-Fanning is co-founder of the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance and lives in Connecticut. She is a member of the ABIM Medical Oncology Board, which oversees the program requirements for initial certification and Maintenance of Certification in Medical Oncology.  

What’s been one of the proudest moments of your life? 

tracey-headshotIn 2006 I was diagnosed with a grade III anaplastic astrocytoma brain tumor and was told I had a three-to-five year life expectancy. However, in September 2016 I became a 10-year brain cancer survivor.

I am proud to be an ABIM governance member who is responsible for what I call the rebranding of brain cancer. Breast cancer has a great pink ribbon campaign but brain cancer is among the most dreaded types of cancer. Therefore, at age 36, I helped form the Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance. Then, 18 months later, CBS Evening News called me the “New Face of Medical Marijuana” after I advocated for a change in medical marijuana laws to help others get the relief that I received from medical marijuana.  

What is one of the biggest misconceptions about doctors?

Doctors do not have all the answers. I have spent an enormous amount of time with doctors, nurses and researchers in hospitals, MRI machines, radiation machines and support groups. I’ve spent time at the bedsides of other brain cancer patients and more time at funerals. I have come to understand that doctors are human beings. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. They have good and bad days.

As a brain cancer patient, what I have learned is that there is no “right” answer for every patient. It’s about the answer that is right for you. Doctors can give you current medical information, guidance, help and a path to walk down, but they can’t walk it for you. Doctors are always students who are still watching, learning and trying to be better every day. But doctors can’t grow and learn without input from patients. Patients are their best continuing education classes.

What did you learn about ABIM after joining a board/committee?

I learned ABIM truly respects my voice as a patient advocating for “quality of life” and “quality of death.”

What’s the best thing about serving?

I believe I am contributing to real change in the future of healthcare by making the patient’s voice heard and understood.

What’s something your colleagues may not know about you?

I hope to be an advisor to the next President of the United States on medical marijuana, with the inherent goal of rescheduling this medicine from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug in the next five years, allowing for real research and advancement.

What are your personal interests?

Aside from medicine, I am also interested in food. When I visited the ABIM offices in Philadelphia, I loved having my first authentic Philly cheese steak sandwich.