Riding to Restore

Riding to Restore 1Roman Skoracki, MD, came to the OSUCCC – James about two years ago from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

He has two children, 8 and 11. “We love Columbus. It’s a very family-oriented, friendly city,” he says. “Something I didn’t appreciate about Columbus at first was the focus on cancer research,” he says. “Seeing the community come together for Pelotonia is extraordinary.”

Skoracki is a professor of Plastic Surgery and chief of the Division of Oncological Plastic Surgery. His clinical expertise includes reconstructive microsurgery of the head, neck and breast, surgical treatment of lymphedema and sarcoma reconstruction.

He specializes in microvascular surgery—the meticulous sewing together of pin-head diameter blood vessels using tiny needles and ultrafine sutures. He is one of very few surgeons in the country performing microvascular surgery to treat lymphedema, a painful swelling of a limb caused by the buildup of fluid when lymphatic vessels are damaged or removed during surgery.

Skoracki’s goal is to improve patient outcomes physically and psychologically. His research focuses on improving outcomes in head and neck cancer reconstruction and on the surgical treatment of
lymphedema.

This procedure re-routs lymphatic channels to allow proper fluid drainage or re-introduces lymph nodes to the affected region. (The James is one of a few hospitals in the country that has a comprehensive lymphedema team and program for cancer patients.) He is also helping to develop an education initiative for breast-cancer patients anticipating reconstruction.

He rode his first Pelotonia last year, tackling the 100-mile route. “It was incredible,” he says. “I hadn’t ridden a bike for 10 years, and I’m getting older, so it took preparation—I also took advantage of rest stops and drafted behind friends and colleagues. The energy level and support from everyone along the way made the ride go by faster than I thought it would.”

He rides with colleagues from the Department of Plastic Surgery’s Riders to Restore peloton, which includes patients and staff. “The name comes from what plastic surgery is intended to do: restore and make whole what has been taken away,” Skoracki explains.

In the clinic, he works with cancer patients from diagnosis forward. “I especially enjoy getting to know my patients and accompanying them on their
journey to recovery.”

He rides in Pelotonia to honor his patients and the strength they show during recovery, and to honor a close friend who recently died of cancer.

“I’ve had the privilege of caring for cancer patients for more than 15 years. It’s a privilege because these patients are incredibly courageous and a daily inspiration to me. They may be losing their hair, they may feel terrible, yet they are worried about how members of my staff are doing or how other patients they have befriended in the waiting area are doing.

“Many of the things we worry about kind of melt away when we see their situation,” Skoracki says.

The friend who died recently was a fellow physician. “She had an incredible struggle with cancer. She battled to the very end. During much of that time, she continued teaching residents and fellows and caring for her own patients. We had many discussions during that time of what it means to be a patient. She was very inspiring.”

Pelotonia offers an opportunity to engage in conversations in a relaxed and beautiful setting with people during the ride.

“Pelotonia is like a metaphor for The James. Everyone is focused on one goal. And there’s an incredible energy and an intense camaraderie, with people coming together in a way that is just wonderful."

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