Tom Junod

Photo: John Nation/Louisville Magazine

Susan Galandiuk, M.D., B.S.’76

Biology/German Major Steers Medical Success

By Jim Sciancalepore, M.A.’93

As fate would have it, Dr. Susan Galandiuk’s choice of double major at UAlbany would make a significant impact on her life’s direction.

Galandiuk knew she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. Because she “always loved science,” her decision to major in biology made perfect sense. Opting to take on a second major in German – while less conventional, perhaps – was just as formative.

The daughter of German-speaking Romanian and Ukrainian immigrants, Galandiuk was interested in immersing herself in her parents’ native language. While at UAlbany, she participated in a summer program in Germany, where she visited the prestigious Wuerzburg University Medical School. She was instantly attracted to the school, and her two passions suddenly converged.

Galandiuk decided to pursue her medical degree at Wuerzburg, where she gained a more global, collaborative perspective on medicine. She also learned that she had a great affinity for both surgery and research.

“When I observed my first operation, I knew this was for me!” she said.

She completed a surgical internship in Wuerzburg and continued her training at the Cleveland Clinic. Though her career as a surgeon was well underway, Galandiuk missed the ability to do research, so she sought a place where she could potentially do both. She was awarded a fellowship at the University of Louisville In Kentucky, where – following a surgical residency at the Mayo Clinic – she would put down roots as surgeon, scientist and professor. By 1990, Galandiuk had found a home in Louisville.

She found something else, too: her husband, Hiram Polk, M.D. A noted surgeon, educator and researcher, Polk served as chairman of surgery at the University of Louisville for more than three decades. The two were married in 1993. 

It helps to have a spouse who also comes from the medical field, Galandiuk observed. “He understands the hours required and the demands of the job.” 

Galandiuk specializes in colon and rectal surgery, an area of medicine that people generally associate with cancer. She explained that many of her patients are facing more common afflictions, such as colitis and Crohn’s disease – conditions that often require management more than surgical intervention.

“I have some patients for life,” she noted. “I sometimes help three generations of the same family who are impacted by genetic disease.”

While patient care is admittedly her “first love,” Galandiuk is also energized by her passion for learning. “With research, there’s always something new – something that could allow me to help many people,” she said. “If I can learn something that puts me out of business, that would be a great thing.”

Galandiuk believes that people in the medical profession need to collaborate to advance their knowledge. The author of numerous articles, she has served on dozens of editorial boards and medical societies, and she is an adviser to the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Health. She recently took on another demanding title: editor-in-chief of Diseases of the Colon & Rectum, the world’s leading academic journal for her specialty. She said that it’s vital for practitioners to share information – not just with fellow professionals, but also with health-care consumers.

“There’s been an explosion of content in health care, but not all of it is accurate,” said Galandiuk. “We need to ensure that everyone has access to quality information.”

In addition to her many health-care interests, Galandiuk said she is fond of the arts – particularly opera. She credited UAlbany’s emphasis on providing a balanced undergraduate curriculum with helping to cultivate an appreciation for things outside the realm of science. It’s one of several ways that the University helped shape Galandiuk’s life and career.

“My experience at UAlbany absolutely helped me do what I do today,” she said.


Next: Edward Fandrey, B.A.'97