Dr. Ralph Broadwater looked over his shoulder to a reporter in the operating room and explained what he'd been able to do for the man on the table, a cancer patient. Recurring cancer of the bowel had attached to the skin; Broadwater had been able to remove the affected part of bowel and skin. "He'll be able to eat again," Broadwater said, and his suffering would be lessened.
Broadwater, a cancer surgeon at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, may not be able to cure all the cancer patients he operates on, but he can improve the quality of life. Since he completed his fellowship 22 years ago at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, advances in chemotherapy, knowledge of anatomy and technological advances that have reduced surgical risks, some cancers can be treated as chronic, rather than fatal, diseases.
Broadwater — whose father, John Broadwater, was one of the first oncologists in Arkansas — has increasingly specialized his practice as the UAMS cancer team has grown. He still operates on some breast cancer patients, but he leaves the bulk of that to his co-winner, Suzanne Klimberg, known nationally for her work in cancer research and therapy. He now focuses on metastatic liver tumors and complex abdominal tumors, as well as pancreatic cancer, melanoma and sarcomas.
Though chemotherapy is a crucial part of cancer treatment, a good operation is the patient's best bet for a cure, Broadwater said. In people whose cancer has metastasized to the lymph system or distant organs, surgery can possibly extend life, though not always. Unfortunately, Broadwater said, patients in rural areas of Arkansas may let a potentially curable disease progress too far, to a point "you would see in the 1950s" before doctors could intervene; their care requires the kind of complex surgery that Broadwater performs.
Broadwater is on call for trauma surgery at UAMS, the first hospital in Arkansas to be designated a Level 1 trauma center. While disease accounts for the top four causes of death in Arkansas, the fifth greatest killer is unintentional injury. More than 1,300 Arkansans die each year from trauma suffered in accidents; Broadwater is especially concerned over the ATV accidents he sees on call. The last time he was in the UAMS emergency room, he treated three people — in one day — for ATV accidents. As a surgeon who operates on cancers that are, for the most part, not related to behavior, Broadwater is dismayed by the number of injuries he sees that are for the most part the result of careless operation of a recreational vehicle.
Broadwater has another claim to fame, besides his reputation as a surgeon. He's married to former KTHV television anchor Anne Jansen. They have two boys.