“I truly believe that cancer has its bad side but it changes people for the good. The living presence of God: That’s the good.” – Dr. Virgilio
Growing up in Brooklyn and Long Island, Dr. Virgilio decided to study oncology when her mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. She has been practicing oncology for 26 years and she will tell you her practice philosophy has changed over time but a recurring theme continues to show up when you talk to her about her career. She feels privileged to take care of people at the most intense time of their life. Whatever the journey is that each patient is on; she wants to get them through it gracefully with the least amount of impact. She feels it is important to find the balance between being honest and providing hope.
She loves spending her free time with her family. When asked what her favorite sports team is, she quickly responded, The CMU Women’s Lacrosse Team! And it is no surprise that since her free time is often filled with hosting team dinners; she would have chosen to be a caterer if medicine had not been her calling.
“I tell all of my patients, we are not here for a long time; we are here for a good time!” –Dr. Melancon
When you ask Dr. Melancon why she chose medicine, she will immediately tell you, “I love this job.” Beginning her medical career as an X-ray technician, she came to oncology in a roundabout way, but she likens it to a puzzle and putting the pieces together.
Dr. Melancon feels it is her job to educate her patients to make the right decision for themselves. Her most important advice for patients and caregivers is to live life everyday and to not put things off. She practices what she preaches by finding time to hike, sail, bike and cook. At the time of this interview, she was heading off to make rhubarb crisp with the rhubarb cut from her garden that morning. So it’s no surprise if she hadn’t been a doctor, she would have been a farmer. She says in her next life she will have long legs, lots of children and live on a farm! She then paused and realized part of that has already come true. She softly responded, “My patients are my children.”
“It is a gift to be with people during this time. It’s not about finding the right decision for the patient but rather the best decision for the patient.” – Dr. King
Growing up just outside of Salt Lake City, Dr. Jonathon King did a report on doctors in the 3rd grade and his future in the sciences was set. When asked about his practice philosophy, Dr. King speaks passionately about taking care of the whole person and he believes his connection with his patients is key. He tells his patients that knowing what their own goals are is the most important thing. One of his patients referred to him as “a cup of love” and when you see his joyful smile and sense his compassionate heart, you may very well agree.
Dr. King enjoys being outdoors both hiking and biking. And he loves spending his free time with his wife, Jess, a PA with Grand Valley Pediatrics, as well as their three children: Olivia, Jeremy and Lucy.
“Often it can feel like a lot of things happen to us, but I believe every day we have the opportunity to choose our outlook, our attitude and how we live our lives.” – Dr. Jahangiri
Dr. Jahangiri chose to become a physician because of an amazing oncologist she had the privilege to watch interact with patients. “Watching her and how she was able to bring joy to people was what inspired me to become an oncologist.”
Dr. Jahangiri sees herself as a guide to patients on their journey through life with cancer. Her aim is to provide her patients with the information and tools to make decisions in their care and to support them along whatever path they choose.
As you talk to Dr. Jahangiri, you can’t help but be affected by her smile. She truly sees every day as a gift and lives her life that way. Her family includes her loving husband and best friend, their adventurous and adorable son, and their dog that they rescued from a shelter. She loves trail running, yoga and spending time with her family. If she could learn anything it would be languages so she could connect with more people. It was her parents who taught her to cherish and enjoy every day, and after meeting Dr. Jahangiri, you will agree, her parents taught her well.
“Cancer is a family affair, but it is also a lonely journey. Support your loved one in their decision.” – Dr. Higdon
Dr. Higdon’s advice to patients is to keep living. Don’t sit at home; get out there and be alive. She is the epitome of living life to the fullest. When you ask her what she does in her free time she lists three things: raise yaks, climb mountains and fly planes! She shrugs off the pilot license by sharing that she lived in Alaska and you really need to fly to get around “The Last Frontier” state. She enjoys climbing mountains describing it as a fun way to see the world. And there is the added benefit of meeting her husband on the slopes of Mt. McKinley. Now they raise yaks in their free time.
When it comes to treating her patients, Dr. Higdon will tell you, “Now I know.” She understands because she has dealt with the disease with both her mother and sister. Her practice philosophy is to really get to know the patient, to be able to communicate with them and to tailor their care for their journey.
At the age of 10, Dr. Higdon wanted to be a missionary. We are fortunate her mission in life brought her to Grand Valley Oncology.
“Cancer gives you a different philosophy on life. You can choose to live every day or die every day.” – Dr. Miller
Life’s path is different for everyone and Dr. Gayle Miller is no exception. She was a high school science and math teacher before becoming a physician. It was her husband, Steve, who supported and helped her find the path that has brought her both happiness and success. Dr. Miller was doing her internship in pediatrics when her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and it was his advice that she has based her practice upon. He told her something she will always remember, “The patient is not their disease.”
In her free time you will find her traveling and in her quiet time you will catch her reading. Her favorite book is Pillars of the Earth. Dr. Miller has a fascination with weather and if she had not chosen to become a physician she would have been a meteorologist. We at Grand Valley Oncology are all very happy that she chose medicine over meteorology.
“I love the technology but what is most meaningful to me is to teach my patients, listen to their needs and give them the care they deserve.” –Dr. Bagley
Dr. Bagley’s path to medical school was an interesting one. He studied math and physics at the University of Utah, worked in business and taught school for two years before making the leap to medical school. He enjoys teaching his patients about cancer, the disease and the treatment. Once you sit down with him, it is quite clear teaching is an important part of his practice. “We’ve gotten away from the paternalistic model in oncology. The patients want the information.”
The field of cancer is always changing and Dr. Bagley enjoys continuing his own education. As a Radiation Oncologist, it is no surprise his favorite book is Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout. However in his free time, he and his wife, Diana, enjoy swimming, hiking and adventures with their four boys: Jack, twins Luke and Max, and Will.
“Every person with cancer deserves a doctor who is not only up to date on the latest medical advances, but who also cares deeply about the person. I strive to be this cancer doctor every person deserves.” –Dr. Frandsen
Dr. Jonathan Frandsen felt the call to pursue a career in medicine as a teenager. In fact, when he was a junior in high school, he told his girlfriend (and future wife, Melinda) that he wanted to be a cancer doctor. Dr. Frandsen works every day to be the best oncologist he can be for his patients. He feels a great responsibility to help his patients navigate the latest medical and technological advances in oncology.
As a resident physician at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Dr. Frandsen won multiple awards for his cancer research. His work has been presented at international medical conferences and published in top flight medical journals. He is thrilled to bring his expertise to the Grand Valley.
Dr. Frandsen loves his family, music, and the great outdoors. He loves sharing his hobbies with his wife, three boys, and baby girl. When not busy seeing patients or wrestling his young children, you might find him around a fire pit sawing on his fiddle, or on the trails peddling his mountain bike.
“You are responsible for your own happiness and your own joy.” –Dr. Tarman
When talking to Dr. Tarman, you will sense her passion for her career. She always wanted to be a physician and she recounts babysitting for a little boy, Christopher, and remembering the day he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Perhaps that little boy helped mold her practice philosophy. “I think about what it’s like to be my patient and to understand what it feels like from their standpoint.” Dr. Tarman builds relationships with her patients by taking the time to get to know them and to earn their trust.
A mother of three boys, she met her husband, Dr. Greg Tarman, at Georgetown University. She adds with a smile, “I had an Irish Setter and he asked for the dog’s phone number.” Both Dr. Tarman and her husband served in the United States Navy.
She is most excited about seeing what paths her sons will take as they prepare for their next chapters in life. Her free time is spent doing needlepoint, knitting or cooking. Her favorite book is Doc Susie: Mountain Doctor and The Beetles top her music list. We are certainly fortunate that this native New Jersey doctor ended up in our community!
“I believe if you keep the patient’s best interests at heart, you provide better care.” –Michael Appel, Pharm D
Soft spoken and with a genuine smile, Michael Appel will tell you the things that mean the most to him are his faith, his family and his patients. Working at King Soopers, bagging groceries, it was the pharmacist there that noticed Michael’s work ethic and asked him to become a pharmacy technician. It wasn’t the position at that part-time job that helped him make the decision to be in the field of oncology but rather the pharmacist who told him he could succeed at whatever he wanted to do, and he realized then that he could work where his heart was. His mother had cancer when Michael was just 13 years old and today, his heart is with his own cancer patients. “I love my patients and God gave me the gift of gab.” So he also loves talking to the patients and hearing their stories.
Michael loves being outdoors whether he is hunting, golfing or skiing. He also loves his faith and would like to receive an advanced degree in Biblical Studies. Michael and his wife, Liz, have four children: Hunter, Allie, Isaac and Grayson.
“A powerful component of genetic counseling is that it is cathartic. It allows people to tell their stories, to tell where they are coming from.” – Katie Lemas
A combination of events led Katie Lemas into the field of genetic counseling from her undergraduate work in psychology to her cousin who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 30. Genetic Counseling allows her to combine her interests and to be in a field that she loves.
Katie’s definition of genetic counseling is beautifully succinct. “It is taking complex genetic information of disease in a family and presenting it in an easy way.” She enjoys the field because she can help a patient use this genetic information to make valuable decisions.
When Katie is not at work she and her husband enjoy spending time with their growing family. A native of Fruita, Katie appreciates all Colorado has to offer year round: hiking, camping, swimming and skiing. If she could learn to do anything she responds with a laugh, “organize my home”. With the ever-evolving field of genetics and a young, energetic family, her priorities are in order, even if the toys are not!