Ibironke Adelaja is the current fellow at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey


Ibironke Adelaja is the current fellow at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey who is participating in the Breast Surgery Fellowship Program, which provides specialized training in breast surgery.

John Emerson

A troubling fact of life is that there is no shortage of women who develop breast cancer—yet there are still not enough breast-cancer surgeons trained to treat it. That’s why the Breast Cancer Alliance, a nonprofit that funds education and research, has given $75,000 over the past two years to help underwrite the Breast Surgery Fellowship Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, one of 40 accredited programs nationwide that provide specialized training in breast surgery.

The fellowship, headed by surgical oncologist Laurie Kirstein, introduces a general surgeon to seven months of extensive training in every facet of breast surgery, in addition to one-month rotations in medical oncology, radiology, surgical pathology, radiation oncology, and community practice. The fellows also conduct research, which they publish and present. Kirstein, herself a fellowship-trained breast surgeon, says the program prepares fellows to run “a first-rate breast-disease program.”

“Most of our fellows intend to work in breast-only practices that give multidisciplinary care in breast disease,” says Kirstein, also an assistant professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS). “We meet the educational requirements of a breast oncology fellowship, but we tailor the experience to each fellow.”

The Cancer Institute’s most recent recipient of the honor is Ibironke Adelaja, who was selected from 50 applicants by Kirstein and Thomas Kearney, the director of Breast Care Services at the Cancer Institute where he started the program in 2005; he is also an associate professor of surgery at RWJMS. Serving primarily an underserved population, Adelaja, who lives in Fresno, California, with her husband and stepson, completed her general surgery residency at UCSF Fresno Medical Center and served two years as a surgeon before beginning the fellowship in June.

“Data show that patients do better with a breast-fellowship trained surgeon,” says Kirstein, who would like to see the fellowship expand to accept two fellows each year. “But right now, there are not enough fellowship-trained surgeons to meet the demand. That’s why fellowships are so important.”