IUSCC news 
February 2018
5 Questions with Dr. Tarah Ballinger


Ballinger
Tarah Ballinger, MD, is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at IU School of Medicine and an associate member of the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at the IU Simon Cancer Center. Dr. Ballinger earned her medical degree from IU. She completed her residency at Vanderbilt and returned to IU to complete her fellowship in oncology. She answers questions about her research and more.

Q: How do you describe your research?

Dr. Ballinger: My research interest is focused on understanding how breast cancer and its therapies affect muscle mass and muscle function, and as we understand this better, thinking about how can we intervene to improve the lives of breast cancer patients and survivors. Physical activity is associated with improved quality of life, reduced side effects, and improved outcomes for our breast cancer patients. However, many patients have difficulty participating in physical activity or exercise interventions, and the cancer-directed medications we give them don’t help. I am currently exploring how a common class of breast cancer medications, aromatase inhibitors, effect muscle function in hopes to develop effective interventions for muscle weakness. We are also working on a technology intervention using a GPS/accelerometer to provide individualized physical activity “prescriptions” to breast cancer survivors, based on their current fitness level and everyday environment.  

Q: How or why did you become interested in this particular area of research?

Dr. Ballinger: I have had a long-standing interest in physical activity. I previously worked as a trainer and am acutely aware of the benefits that I get personally from exercise. In addition to health benefits, I know exercise has taught me lessons about goal-setting and determination that I carry into my work. I knew my area of research focus needed to be something I am excited and passionate about. Our goal as oncologists is to help people live, but I strongly believe that we also have a responsibility to help those people live well, and that is my motivation.    

Q: What gets you excited about coming to work?  

Dr. Ballinger: My favorite part of my week are my clinic days. Many of my patients have become my friends, and I look forward to seeing them. I feel extremely privileged to work with people during some of the most difficult and celebratory times in their lives. On an everyday basis, I get most excited by conversations with my colleagues that lead to new ideas and creative solutions for how we can best serve our patients.  

I received most of my training at IU and chose to stay here for my career due to the supportive and collegial environment. There are amazing physicians and scientists here that I learn from regularly, and who are invested in my success. The collaborative research environment makes unique projects possible and allows teams from various backgrounds to tackle difficult issues. -- Dr. Ballinger
Q: Outside of research, what are your other interests, hobbies?  

Dr. Ballinger: Outside of work, I most enjoy spending time with my family, friends, and my dog, Roger. I can usually be found running outside or lifting weights in my basement after work as a way to de-stress. I also love watching college sports and look forward to March Madness every year.  

Q: What attracted / attracts you to IU?  

Dr. Ballinger: I received most of my training at IU and chose to stay here for my career due to the supportive and collegial environment. There are amazing physicians and scientists here that I learn from regularly, and who are invested in my success. The collaborative research environment makes unique projects possible and allows teams from various backgrounds to tackle difficult issues.

 
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