As a young medical student, Kimberly “Kim” Bailey, MD, knew she wanted to become a surgeon. But she didn’t realize how far her surgical career would take her – literally and figuratively.
Before joining WVU Cancer Institute as a breast surgeon in 2022, Dr. Bailey worked on both land and sea, across the United States and in international waters. After completing her medical degree at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and her general surgery residency training at East Tennessee State University, she was commissioned into the U.S. Navy.
From 2013 to 2016, Dr. Bailey was based at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It was there, at Camp Lejeune’s Naval Medical Center, that she first gained experience running a breast health clinic – and created the medical center’s first “tumor board” (a group of cancer experts who meet regularly to discuss patient treatment plans).
Throughout her active duty, Dr. Bailey was also a ship surgeon and lieutenant commander on the Navy aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. During her deployment with the 2nd Marine Logistics Battalion, she cared for Marines who needed surgery for conditions ranging from appendicitis to hernias.
“I was initially drawn to surgery because it’s often curative,” she says. “For example, if someone has painful gallstones, I can cure them by removing their gallbladder. Over time, I’ve shifted my focus to breast surgery because it’s such a vital part of breast cancer treatment. For most people with breast cancer, surgery to remove their tumor is a major step toward becoming cancer-free.”
After leaving the Navy, Dr. Bailey joined WVU Medicine, where she continued honing her general surgery and breast surgery skills. In 2020, she took time off to obtain a master’s degree in public health from the University of Arizona – and then returned to West Virginia and the WVU Medicine family.
Today, Dr. Bailey focuses exclusively on breast surgery. She offers the full range of surgical treatments for breast cancer, including mastectomy and breast-conserving options like lumpectomy. And because many of her patients need chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy in addition to surgery, she works closely with other specialists, such as medical oncologists and radiation oncologists.
“Here at WVU Cancer Institute, breast cancer treatment is a team effort,” says Dr. Bailey. “Through our weekly tumor board, multiple experts weigh in on each patient’s care plan, ensuring they receive the most effective combination of treatments. And our nurse navigators and schedulers make it easier for patients to get the medical care and support services they need.”
Dr. Bailey is also passionate about making sure tomorrow’s surgeons have the skills they need to care for people in their own communities. She’s an assistant professor and co-director of the third-year medical student surgical clerkship at West Virginia University School of Medicine.
“Being part of an academic medical institution is the perfect fit,” she says. “I love working with medical students and residents, and I would feel like something was missing if I couldn’t teach.”
Dr. Bailey also brings her teaching skills to the exam room, where she frequently counsels patients on their breast cancer surgery options. She says her goal is for each patient to leave their appointment feeling well-informed – and confident enough to make their own decisions.
“I often tell people, ‘I’m going to make surgical recommendations based on statistics, but you are not a statistic,’” she explains. “Each person I treat has unique responsibilities and different feelings and preferences about surgery. One patient might opt for a less-invasive lumpectomy because they can’t take a lot of time off work to recover, while another chooses a double mastectomy so they’ll feel less anxious about their cancer coming back. I want my patients to make the choice that’s right for them and know that I’m here to support that choice.”
Outside of work, Dr. Bailey loves staying active outdoors and spending time with her husband and daughter. She also enjoys the creative and meditative aspects of quilting, crocheting, and embroidery.