SHERIDAN — Practicing oncology comes with sobering responsibilities, and very few people are well-equipped to handle the challenges.
Maybe her affinity for Bob Ross, whose soothing voice has captivated many, combined with her love of nature, can help explain why Dr. Megan Ratterman is wonderful at her job. But more likely, there’s something ingrained in her, something that drives her to serve others quietly and effectively, making her special.
Ratterman joined the Welch Cancer Center in September 2017 as a medical oncologist after completing a fellowship at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, with a specialty in hematology/oncology.
“Dr. Ratterman has made such a positive impact with our patients and their families in a very short time,” said Ada Kirven, director of donor relations for Sheridan Memorial Hospital.
“Being involved with the original vision for the Welch Cancer Center, and understanding the importance of having cancer care close to home for our rural community, it’s just really great to know Dr. Ratterman is here, that she chose to practice in Sheridan and become part of our healthcare community.”
Ratterman was raised in Evanston from a very young age until she was in sixth grade, when she moved to Salt Lake City and then ultimately to Illinois.
“To me, Wyoming always felt like home. We were always outside hiking and camping, skiing, fishing, water skiing and those kinds of things,” Ratterman said. “In my head, Wyoming was always where I was from and home to me. I missed the mountains, being outside and nature.”
Ratterman did much of her medical training in the Chicago area, and while the city is definitely a fun place to be, there is no nature there.
“I spent an hour and a half of my day in traffic, and it is a very different lifestyle. I missed the outdoors and being involved in all those activities,” Ratterman said.
She also knew she loved people, and that love drew her to medicine.
“That is really what drew me to medicine, and oncology in particular. It is such a scary diagnosis, and being able to help guide someone through that, to support them in that really vulnerable time, is incredibly special,” Ratterman said. “I knew I wanted a career where you get to know the patients and their families, and oncology is one of the specialties where your patients are your patients lifelong. The bond that you develop caring for them is incredible.”
Ratterman said she and her patients create a strong foundation of trust and friendship in the beginning. She believes in treating the whole person, and that includes caring for the patient and their family. While helping a patient reach remission is wonderful, more often than not, that is not achieved.
“We can’t often cure the cancer, but we can provide pain relief or even just emotional support through their diagnosis and treatment,” Ratterman said. “The biggest reward, I think, is offering people time, whether that is extended life to make it to a wedding or a graduation. Time is so valuable, so we can’t always cure the disease, but being able to give someone extra time is so rewarding.”
Ratterman said she was drawn back to Wyoming because of a lack of medical care in rural areas, especially in oncology care.
“That was extremely important to me, to be able to come back and give something back. If you receive a cancer diagnosis and then have to travel hours for treatment, that’s even worse. To be able to offer care right here in Sheridan, so people can receive their chemo or radiation at home, is fantastic,” she said. “Wyoming as a whole needs so much more of that.”
In the final years of her fellowship, Ratterman began job searching, specifically targeting the Western United States including Wyoming, Montana and Colorado.
“There was a job opening in Sheridan, and I applied. I had never been to Sheridan before. I flew out here and just fell in love. It is so beautiful here, and I really felt a strong sense of community and support during my interview,” Ratterman said. “I actually cancelled all my other interviews after I was interviewed here because I thought this was the place for me.”
Amy Ligocki, medical staff manager at the hospital, was involved in recruitment of the new oncologist to Sheridan in 2017.
“We were lucky enough to get her here for a visit, and we knew as soon as we met her that she was the right fit,” Ligocki said. “We grabbed her and didn’t want to let her go. Since then, our whole oncology program has just really improved.”
Ratterman said she has been supported as a female physician in Sheridan by both the administration and the community. In fact, she added, there are a lot of strong women in roles at the hospital. Even in her medical training, she had really had great female role models.
“What is really cool now is that in medical school, probably 50 percent or more students are women,” she said. “I think that is a positive reflection of the way the nation is moving. Women are in a lot more leadership roles, and we are moving closer and closer to equality.”
Ratterman embodies the vision of compassionate, quality care which the Welch Cancer Center provides, Kirven said, and also jumps in to help raise awareness for screening and early diagnosis of cancer.
“Having to navigate a cancer diagnosis is tough. It’s awesome to have Dr. Ratterman at our community hospital—we are very fortunate,” Kirven said.
It was Mike McCafferty, Sheridan Memorial Hospital CEO, who pointed out her love of Bob Ross.
“Dr. Megan Ratterman is a person who embodies patient-centered care,” he said. “She demonstrates this through kindness with our patients and leadership of the patient’s care team. She is very thoughtful, gracious and professional. She is a person that aligns extremely well with the culture and values of the Sheridan community and we are so fortunate that she and her fiancé Ryan have chosen to make Sheridan their home.”
Ligocki noted that the challenges of medical oncology are many.
“She has a really hard job, but she is the perfect person to be your teammate as you go through these things,” she said. “We have family members who have gone to her, and I have been very impressed with her.”
Ratterman is a humble leader, Ligocki continued. She never wants recognition for anything she does, and that is simply her personality.
“That’s how she lives her life—she’s one of those people that you just want to be like, that you want to be around,” Ligocki said.
Ratterman said it may sound cliche, but in her job, you just never give up—and then, characteristically, she gives credit back to others.
“You are going to face all sorts of challenges in your medical training and you just can’t give up. It is a hard, long, long road, but you can always lean on your friends and family,” she said.
Editor’s note: On Dec. 10, 1869, Wyoming territory passed the first law in United States history recognizing women’s right to vote and hold public office.
At The Sheridan Press, we are counting down to the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the Equality State with a special series inspired by the Wyoming Office of Tourism’s “Year of Wyoming Women.” Highlighting a different inspiring Wyoming woman, the features are published on the 10th of every month. Explore the full series here!