By Rachel Gross Weinstein
Making lives better for breast cancer patients is Dr. Gail Lebovic’s ultimate goal, and she has accomplished that through the use of medical devices she has invented.
The Frisco resident specialized in breast cancer treatment for almost 20 years and always tried new techniques during surgery to help her patients recover more easily. However, she knew she could affect even more women with the creation of certain medical devices.
“As a surgeon, I spent most of my time figuring out ways to help my patients during surgery and how to do better surgery. That’s when I thought I would be able to develop medical devices,” she said. “The products I’ve invented are about making the recovery process easier for women and giving them a better quality of life. Working with patients one on one was amazing, but being able to develop a device that will help millions of people is even more rewarding.”
Lebovic has already invented many devices being used, two of which are:
- The MammoPad, a foam pad that serves as a cushion between a woman’s breast and the mammography machine, resulting in a warmer, softer, more comfortable mammogram.
- The SAVI device, which delivers treatment from inside the breast, directing individualized radiation where it is needed most. With that product, radiation can take place in only seven days compared to six weeks, according to Lebovic.
Now, as founder and chief medical officer of Focal Therapeutics, she has launched a new device called the BioZorb tissue marker, a device that provides radiographic marking of soft tissue sites. The BioZorb device is placed when surgical tissue is removed, such as during breast surgery, and its three-dimensional array of marker elements can help make images of the site.
In creating new devices, she and her Focal Therapeutics engineering team work on everything from researching products, to talking with doctors, to packaging and launching the products.
“I have been fortunate that what I have created has been successful and are available for women,” she said. “Over 30 million women have had mammograms with the MammoPad. To me, that’s mind-boggling, and it makes me feel that all of my work has been worthwhile. My job is challenging but fun, and I know I am helping people.”
It can take anywhere from two to five years to fully develop devices and get them on the market, Lebovic said.
Lebovic was an attending surgeon at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., from 1993-2004 and later served as associate director of the Lee Breast Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After moving to North Texas in 2005, Lebovic was director of women’s health care at the Cooper Clinic.
She just finished her two-year term as president of the Frisco-based American Society of Breast Disease. However, for her job with Focal Therapeutics and the creation of her other medical devices, she often travels to speak about her products and educate people.
Although Lebovic isn’t a practicing doctor anymore, she still knows her work is vital. According to statistics, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
If creating new technology can allow women to have a better recovery and quality of life after breast cancer surgery, that’s the most meaningful, Lebovic said.
“It’s amazing to launch a clinical product and realize that I am touching the lives of millions of women,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to see such dramatic changes in the field of breast cancer research and surgery from the 1980s until now. Although we have learned a lot, there is still a lot of work to be done to find a cure, so my work never ends. It’s exciting to develop new things and help so many people.”