Dr. Monika J. Leja, Clinical Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System


Dr. Leja is a specialist in cardio-oncology and cardiovascular imaging at the Cardiovascular Center, University of Michigan Health System.  Part of Dr. Leja's practice includes caring for patients who have cancer that grows from the heart.

To say Dr. Leja is a specialist is an extreme understatement. Being just one of roughly thirty cardiologists in America who specialize in both the heart and cancer places her in an elite group.

So often patients who are diagnosed with cancer of the heart are turned away by other doctors.  This is where Dr. Leja rolls up her sleeves and goes in for the fight.

“A cancer of the heart such as cardiac sarcoma is like cancer cells on speed," says Leja. "They are aggressive and quick to multiply. This allows us a very short window to fight for people. While we know the prognosis is poor, we want to give everyone of these patients the best possible care to prolong their life and give them the best quality of life.”

Once Dr. Leja gets in the fight for a life, she sees them as people rather than just patients.  “I become very attached; I know so much about their lives and family, it becomes personal for me.”

The very sad part of her profession is quite often these patients have a very bleak prognosis and often don’t make it.  Dr. Leja unfortunately has seen her share of patients who have died. 

Her interview has helped us to better understand how different people approach that life changing news.