It's 2:45 a.m. – long before the sun rises – and UA pediatric hematologist/oncologist Brenda Wittman is driving to Scottsdale. She is not driving up there to see patients, however. She'’s making the drive so she can get two hours of practice in for her favorite activity: competitive figure skating.
About six times a month, Wittman makes this early morning trek to Scottsdale, and then returns to Tucson to begin seeing her young patients at 9:30 a.m.
"It's a challenge, but worth it," Wittman says.
As a pediatric hematologist/oncologist, and an assistant professor in the Section of Hematology/Oncology/BMT in the UA Department of Pediatrics, Wittman takes care of children with cancer and blood disorders.
She also is the principal investigator for the Children’s Oncology Group clinical trials conducted though the UA Steele Children’s Research Center at The University of Arizona Medical Center - Diamond Children’s.
In addition to managing pediatric cancer clinical trials, Wittman works with several pediatric residents and a nursing student about projects regarding central line infections, survival of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and two quality improvement projects.
Needless to say, Wittman is a very busy physician-scientist. Even so, she finds time to practice figure skating.
"I love figure skating. It's a wonderful stress relief and I am always improving," she says. "Plus, it's just sheer fun and I love the creativity and the costumes."
Wittman began ice-skating when she was 13 years old and has been skating ever since – through high school, college, medical school, residency and fellowship. She has traveled all over the world to participate in figure-skating competitions.
Over the summer, Wittman traveled to Oberstdorf, Germany, where she competed in the International Skating Union Adult Figure Skating Competition, attended annually by more than 300 skaters from 25 countries who compete in interpretive and pairs skating as well as ice dancing, free skating and synchronized skating. She then traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to compete in the International Adult Figure Skating Competition "White Nights," where she earned first place in three events: masters free skating, masters artistic and compulsory figures.
Wittman now is planning to compete in the Pacific Coast Adult Sectionals in Ontario, Calif., in March 2014 and the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Cape Cod, Mass., in April.
"One thing I love about skating is that I’ve made friends all over the world," Wittman says. "So, if I'm traveling to a medical conference, I can usually track down a skating friend."
Wittman recently began working with children who are learning to ice-skate.
"When I'm not on call, I help with the 'tot' group on Sunday mornings through the U.S. Figure Skating 'Learn to Skate' program, which is run by the Tucson Figure Skating Club," she says. "Some of my patients have even asked me to teach them how to skate, hopefully when we have a permanent rink here in Tucson again. It's very rewarding."
Story from UA at Work: http://uaatwork.arizona.edu/story/ua-doc-award-winning-figure-skater