Dr. Dirk Pikaart took an unusual path to medicine, initially working in construction trades. After returning to school, a career counselor inspired him that he could do whatever he wanted. “I had never thought that,” Pikaart says. “We did career testing, and the counselor said, ‘You’d make a great surgeon. You work with your hands … it’s natural.’ He helped me dream bigger.”
In medical school, Pikaart’s wife was pregnant when he first experienced OB-GYN rotations. “It’s an exciting part of life,” he says. “My wife and I were in that time. Deliveries are amazing, a miracle. As on OB-GYN you get to be part of it.”
Still, gynecological oncology was not on his radar. “I’m not one for small talk,” Pikaart admits. “When someone is having a child, though, it’s real and meaningful. Again, when you’re caring for cancer patients, it’s raw. Ultimately, I felt I had to do this.”
“[Dr. Dirk Pikaart’s] compassion and dogged determination in developing the best course of treatments for his patients is amazing and drove my decision to remain with him as he moved his practice,” says Margaret Rockwood, office supervisor.
Pikaart drops a heavy box on his desk overflowing with cards, letters and notes, each a story of gratitude. “I don’t know I’m deserving,” he says. “It’s unbelievable.”
Rockwood mentions a recent letter from a patient’s husband, thanking Pikaart for 10 wonderful years he had given her. “Those 10 years allowed [her] to witness the birth, development and growth of their grandchildren,” Rockwood says. “[His] letter stood out … because it spoke of the gift of life, something Dr. Pikaart fights for every day.”
“Oncology is a roller coaster,” Pikaart says. “You have amazing highs with patients, but then cross the hall to watch another suffer. I just had a patient I told goodbye. She cried, saying, ‘I don’t know why, but I love you and am so grateful for you being my doctor.’ I think I know why: We were war buddies. We got in the trench and fought the cancer together.”
Read about more Healthcare Heroes here.