Mia K Markey and Gregory Reece

Professor Mia K. Markey and Dr. Gregory Reece have been collaborating since 2002.

For breast cancer survivors, deciding on a reconstruction method can be difficult. Professor Mia K. Markey collaborates with Dr. Gregory Reece, a physician and professor of plastic surgery at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to develop computational decision making aids that help survivors become more informed about the different methods available to them.

Though the different reconstruction options are well known, logistical information about the uncertainties of outcomes, such as the number of possible revisions needed, chances of complications, or the final aesthetic result, are harder to come by.

The best way to help patients make decisions about their reconstruction options today is to show them photos; but many patients don’t want to share their photos. Photos do not necessarily provide an accurate assessment because patients don’t necessarily look alike, so it can be hard to determine how the option will work for each individual.

That’s where the collaboration between Drs. Markey and Reece comes in. The two have been working together since around 2002, after connecting through a mutual colleague. Reece presents challenges and shares logistical issues with Markey who uses foundations in engineering to develop decision-making aids to help breast cancer survivors get a personalized sense of how reconstruction will work for them.

According to Dr. Reece, the pair are both necessary to accomplish their work on post-breast cancer reconstruction. “I wouldn’t be able to do the research I do without her and without me she wouldn’t either,” he said.

Their research takes a multidisciplinary approach to finding solutions in personalized health care decision-making. In addition to Reece’s key contributions in the area of plastic surgery and medicine for this project, Markey collaborates with clinical psychologist Michelle Fingeret and decision scientist Scott Cantor, both from MD Anderson Cancer Center; Fatima Merchant from the University of Houston’s Department of Engineering Technology; and K. Ravi-Chandar from The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Aerospace Engineering.

This story is part of our Research Bench to Better Living series, which explores collaborations between biomedical engineering and healthcare.