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Leslie Appiah, MD: Protecting Fertile Ground for Cancer Survivors

Fertility and reproductive health specialist helps cancer patients preserve their chance to have children

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Written by Kristen O'Neill on March 10, 2023
What You Need To Know

This OBGYN and reproductive health care clinician, surgeon and researcher is working to ensure that all cancer patients of reproductive age are given the opportunity to preserve their ability to have children before they receive cancer treatment.

As professor and division chief of the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Division of Academic Specialists in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Leslie Appiah, MD specializes in preserving fertility in cancer patients. But her fierce focus and commitment don’t end there. She brings expertise and innovation to myriad facets of cancer survivorship, helping to restore function, well-being and quality of life through gynecology and urology care coordination.

Together with her fellow educators and scientists, Appiah has expanded services to nearly a thousand people facing infertility due to a medical diagnosis – specifically those who face disparities in healthcare due to age, race and socioeconomic status.  

Below, meet this leader and mentor who continuously looks for opportunities to excel and grow, from the lab to the clinic, the O.R. to the great outdoors.

What drives you?

I am driven to action every day by the knowledge that patients in this country receive disparate care depending on their geographic location, skin color, age, and financial status. This disparity exists in all aspects of health care including preventative, maternity, pediatric, and specialty care despite the existence of evidence-based guidelines that should prevent such inequities. My specific area of clinical expertise is fertility preservation and reproductive health care for patients with cancer where disparities are further exacerbated. My goal as Medical Director of the Fertility Preservation and Reproductive Late Effects program is to standardize processes to ensure that all patients of reproductive age receive the opportunity to preserve their ability to have children prior to cancer treatments. Equally important, our program strives to provide evidence-based gynecology and urology treatments to improve pregnancy outcomes, sexual function, and restore an overall sense of well-being and quality of life in survivorship.

“My patients are some of the most resilient and hope-filled people I will ever have the honor of meeting. They give purpose to what I do every day.” 

What excites you to get out of bed in the morning and get to work?

I am excited every time I walk into the room of a patient diagnosed with cancer because I am able to help improve their quality of life. I provide survivors with information regarding their reproductive health and opportunities to preserve their ability to have children. This is information they did not have before that brings them hope. Friends and colleagues often ask how I can find joy in seeing patients and especially children who are suffering from life-threatening diagnoses. I tell them that the patients I see are some of the most resilient and hope-filled people I will ever have the honor of meeting and that they give purpose to what I do every day. These survivors use their stories to support others through treatment and help me to see the beauty in life. They give me more than I give to them.

How does being part of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus ecosystem help you further your work and your professional goals? 

Joining the CU Anschutz Medical Campus has been the highlight of my career. I joined the faculty as Division Chief of Academic Specialists in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medical Director of the Fertility Preservation and Reproductive Late Effects program at UCHealth University Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado in 2019. During this time, I have had the honor of mentoring the career development of 44 faculty and expanding access to fertility and reproductive health services for greater than 700 adults and children faced with infertility from medical diagnoses and treatments. The CU campus is well-resourced and I have the tools I need to do my job effectively. The faculty and staff are some of the brightest, most collaborative, and mission-driven clinician educators, scientists, and leaders I have ever worked with and I feel fortunate to be in this role. I live my dream job every day

When I’m not at work, I enjoy…

When I am not at work, I enjoy tennis, skiing, and spending time with family and friends. Tennis and skiing are two sports I learned after my family moved to Denver. I enjoy them because they are physical, help me stay in shape in a fun way, and allow me to develop new skills that I can build upon every time I engage in them. Tennis also provides me with the opportunity to meet new people outside of work who have stories and experiences that broaden my perspective. Spending time with my husband, two amazing children, family and friends reminds me there is more to life than work and that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously. There is no greater joy than unabandoned laughter with family – it is life giving.

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Topics: Faculty