We hope you don't meet cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Matthew Steliga in a clinical setting, but if you bump into him at, say, the UAMS Gala for Life, don't hesitate to say hello. In 2009, the 41-year-old Milwaukee, Wisconsin native joined the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where he works as an associate professor of surgery, takes care of patients and conducts life-saving research at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, specifically as it relates to lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer death in both Arkansas and the U.S. "This state has a very high rate of lung cancer," he says. "I saw opportunities to change the way some things are done here in lung cancer surgery, lung cancer screening and in tobacco cessation programs." Learn more about his work at the UAMS Lung Cancer Team website.
What attracted you to the hospital and state?
This state has a very high rate of lung cancer. I saw opportunities to change the way some things are done here in lung cancer surgery, lung cancer screening and in tobacco cessation programs.
What's one thing about you that people wouldn't expect?
I try to learn something new and out of my comfort zone every couple of years. It is humbling to be a beginner at something, and I think being a student gives you a better perspective as a teacher. Over the years I’ve taken night classes in Italian, woodworking at the Arkansas Arts Center, yoga (which has been great for my lower back pain) and now I’m taking classes in graduate school at UAMS.
Woodworking. I enjoy making things for our home such as tables, bookshelves, a bench, a dollhouse. And cycling. I used to ride a lot, but hadn’t for years. This past year, I got a bike and have really enjoyed getting back into cycling. Also, camping with my family.
What makes the UAMS WRCI such a standout?
Many things. Multidisciplinary coordination of care, cutting-edge technology and access to clinical trials are all things that really stand out. But I think the best aspect of WRCI is the people. Not just great physicians, and incredible researchers, but our access coordinators, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and countless others really go the extra mile.
Greatest goal in life?
As a scout years ago, I was always told “leave the campground in better shape than you found it.” I think that’s a good message throughout life. It is always my aim to have a lasting positive impact on whatever situation I am involved in.
Books/magazines are on your nightstand?
A text on thoracic oncology, some books on tool restoration, woodworking, and furniture building, and a couple by Atul Gawande — “Being Mortal” and “Better.”
(Back to 7 People You Have To Meet in 2016.)