Family ties and popular culture drew Dr. Craig Brackett to medicine.
Inspiration to improve the field led him to become a leading breast cancer surgeon and medical director of the Tidelands Health breast health program.
But less than 20 years ago, he was just starting to really explore his would-be specialty.
“When I was a younger surgeon, I wanted to save the world,” says Dr. Brackett. “I wanted to do gastrointestinal and thoracic surgery and all the big stuff.”
A trip to a conference in San Francisco would, however, forever alter his mindset and the trajectory of his career.
Dr. Brackett traces his interest in medicine back to his childhood. Dr. Brackett was 13 years old in 1972 when the hit show “M*A*S*H” debuted. He became hooked on the notion of healing – something that was already being instilled in him by his father, also a physician.
Within a few years, he was helping out as an operating room orderly in the hospital where his father worked. There was something about the idea of scrubbing up in designated clothing just to cross the threshold into the operating room that stuck with him.
Soon committed to a career in medicine, he went on to earn his medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina and complete a residency and an internship at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics.
After moving to the Tidelands region in 1994 as a general surgeon, Dr. Brackett continued to educate himself so that he could best serve his patients. In 1996, he attended a conference in San Francisco that would ultimately lead him to specialize in breast health.
At the conference, he was introduced to stereotactic breast biopsy, a procedure that uses imaging to locate breast abnormalities so tissue can be removed for examination using a needle. In contrast to surgical biopsy, which was far more common at the time, the minimally invasive approach leaves little to no scarring and minimizes the risk of infection.
“Nobody else in the region was doing it,” Dr. Brackett says. “We were the third hospital in the entire state.”
A new focus
Quickly, breast health became a central focus for Dr. Brackett and today, at age 59, the married father of three children has helped countless women confront – and beat – a cancer diagnosis. He takes his role as a surgeon at Tidelands Health Breast Center, the region’s only surgical practice dedicated solely to breast health, extremely seriously.
“I always thought it was such a huge responsibility to operate on a human being,” Dr. Brackett says. “To have that opportunity, if someone trusts you to do that, it was a big deal. I still think it is.”
In addition to the care he provides directly to his patients, however, he also helps guide the overall direction of the health system’s breast health program. Dr. Brackett not only serves as medical director of the program but is also co-chair of the Tidelands Health breast program leadership group, which sets the health system’s standards of breast care based on national standards.
It’s part of a focus on continuous improvement that has helped the Tidelands Health breast health program become the only one in the region, and one of only nine in South Carolina, to be certified by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.
Still, for all the accolades and recognition he’s earned over his career, it’s the opportunity to help people that drives Dr. Brackett.
“I feel like this is what God called me to do with my life,” he says. “It happened so powerfully and so quickly.
“We can make a lot of impact in people’s lives. It’s important because breast cancer is a terrible disease. We’ve tried to educate a lot of people about this disease. I feel like we’ve made a difference.”