Dr. Lynsay Waller Brautnick always intended to be a doctor, but her path did not follow what one may call a traditional route. It all started with an announcement at the dinner table when Brautnick was in third grade: She was going to be a physician when she grew up.
“I don’t know where [the idea to be a physician] came from,” Brautnick said. “My parents just never told me I couldn’t. I grew up in a home where whatever you wanted to achieve, you could achieve.”
And achieve, she did. Brautnick initially came to Harding as a chemistry major but decided to go a slightly different direction. Coming from a family of accountants, she saw the value of a business background and graduated from the University in 2000 with a degree in accounting — and a minor in chemistry.
Brautnick went from Harding to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and from there to Vanderbilt for a residency in internal medicine. It was during her time at Vanderbilt that she decided to hone in on a specialty in oncology.
“At the church I was attending in Nashville, there was an elder who was a physician,” Brautnick said. “I remember him asking me what I was going to do, and I explained how conflicted I was — I really couldn’t decide between nephrology and oncology. And he was a really quiet man; he didn’t say a lot, he just said, ‘oh, but think about the difference you could make as a Christian in oncology.’”
From Tennessee to North Carolina, she completed fellowships in hematology and oncology at Wake Forest in 2011. While wrapping up her fellowship, Brautnick heard from a former colleague about an opportunity in Northwest Arkansas working with Highlands Oncology Group.
“God intervened,” Brautnick said. “I was looking at my options, and it was a good fit — it’s a lovely area and a great practice. God put it all in place, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Brautnick was initially drawn to the unique nature of her relationship with her patients as an oncologist and the opportunity to get to know the whole family. Though she acknowledges that her job is difficult, she said it’s rewarding to become part of the family and walk alongside people through this time in their life.
“There’s nothing that isn’t hard about it,” Brautnick said. “You’re often seeing people at the worst times in their lives, but you’re being invited in as a trusted person to help them through the process and come out on the other side, no matter what direction. You get to play a small role in helping them on this path, and you often become part of the family. And that is what’s rewarding.”
Any physician’s job comes with hard days, difficult news to share, a different outcome than what all had hoped for, but that is especially true for an oncologist. Brautnick’s perspective on coping with hard days is to remember that God is the great physician, and he is ultimately holding the outcome.
“I tell patients that I’m trained well to do what I do, but we leave the results to God,” Brautnick said. “I can give the chemo, but God gives the response. That is hard as a physician to remember sometimes because you want every patient to have a good outcome, and that doesn’t always happen. Being in prayer for your patients and leaving them in God’s hands is what really helps get through the rough days.”
Brautnick’s faith and support system provide the solid foundation she needs as she walks her chosen career path. It is a group of women she befriended during her time at Harding who she leans on for encouragement and advice, who she calls in a crisis and vacations with each summer.
“It is therapeutic when we all get together,” Brautnick said. “It’s coming together with other women to share the joys and the hardships. We cry, we laugh, we tell the same story over and over again, and we leave renewed.”
She and her husband, Derek, view her position as a ministry, and his support — evident in his decision to step back from his career to stay home with their daughter, Laurel — is further proof that Brautnick’s route — while nontraditional to some — is right where she is supposed to be.