Dr. Katie Deming is in The Business of Doing Good
Katie Deming, an Oncologist turned fashion designer, developed the first line of bras designed for women with sensitive skin from radiation treatments. Learn more about her amazing dedication to her patients and why she says doing good is good business.
Occupations, affiliations, and projects.
Board Certified Radiation Oncologist, trained at Duke University. Founder of MAKEMERRY—the first line of bras designed for women with sensitive skin from radiation treatments
PEOPLE WHO DO FOCUSES ON THOSE WHO TAKE ACTION TO PURSUE MEANINGFUL LIFE PASSIONS. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO “DO”?
I am a natural do-er. I really cannot stop. My husband and kids might actually call it a disorder. Honestly, I love to learn new things and challenge myself. I also love making a positive impact on other people. Through my work as an oncologist, I get to see first hand how doing a good job can change someone’s life. That has been powerful for me. To know that what I choose to do with my time can change lives. I think it inspires me to find ways to make the world a better place by doing my little part. I have also realized that how I conduct myself matters. I not only want to do things that change lives, I want to conduct myself in business and my personal life in a way that inspires others. I think it is helpful to see people who are successful being kind and lifting up others around them. You don’t need to claw your way to the top. You can climb and help everyone else along the way.
Tell me more about why MAKEMERRY was important to create?
I was really just being a doctor. I believe in holistic care and that means that I need to help my patients by thinking about them as people first. It was completely frustrating to know that the side effects of radiation would cause a sunburn-like reaction on my patients' chest and there was nothing for them to wear that was soft enough against their sensitive skin. I jerry rigged-their own bras for years but eventually decided that someone needed to do something about the need. Then I realized that I was that person that needed to do something. There were large bra companies in the breast cancer space, but I frankly hated what they were designing and I knew I understood the problem better than them. I see thousands of women receiving radiation. I know this problem. So I decided to hire my own little team in Portland and started designing what I thought would be samples that I could give to my own patients. After six years of prototyping, wear-testing and revisions, I realized that I had something that I needed to share with more women than just my patients.
What does it mean to you to provide care to your patients?
I don’t treat cancer. I treat people. People with families, hopes, dreams and fears. I am so lucky that my patients trust me with their care and I take that trust very seriously. In order to care for a person, you need to build trust and partner with them. I see my job as a trusted guide that educates and empowers my patients to make the best decisions for them. I know cancer, but my patients know their bodies and their values. What might be right for one person could be completely wrong for someone else.
To date, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
My family. I am flying out to NYC, as I'm writing this, with my daughters. As I watched them get ready for the flight, I was overcome with pride. I am raising some amazing little people! They are smart, kind, intuitive and generous little beings. I am not sure what I did to deserve them but they definitely fill me with pride. I also am so proud of the family we have built. My husband, Jon, and I have a blended family with five kids between the two of us. Jon is my soulmate and has brought out the best in me as a woman, entrepreneur, doctor and mother. It has been hard to create a blended family but we couldn’t have a better crew together. They are all so different but get along amazingly.
#1 motivating mantra to get through tough moments.
Gratitude. If you spent one day in my clinic, you would realize you are so lucky to be healthy. When things get tough, I remember how much harder my patients have it. I also think of my patients who lost their lives before they were able to realize their dreams. I don’t have time to wait. Tomorrow is something that I don’t take for granted.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned so far this year?
I want to drive my business with integrity. I have had some really tough things happen in the past year and I have realized that it is more important to have integrity in my work than to be successful financially. I am hoping I can be both, but I will go out of business before I compromise my integrity.
Was there a patient that has really inspired you and why?
Wow. I have so many. I am inspired everyday by my patients and each one inspires me differently. But I will tell you about one that truly has my heart at the moment. She is young with metastatic breast cancer. I have treated her twice before for breast cancer it just came back in her bones. Now it is incurable. She and her husband are truly my heroes. They have been dealt a hand that is unimaginable and she has been through more than most could bear. And yet, every time I walk in the room they have this attitude like, “Yes, this is really tough. But, we are ready. What are we going to do, Doc?” They just took a trip to Disneyland with their 7 yr old daughter. They had planned the trip before her cancer came back and decided to go because they were worried that she will feel worse with upcoming chemo. She became very ill while they were in California. But, like always, her husband coordinated the care between her doctors in Oregon and California and they came back to tell me excitedly about the one great day they had at Disneyland. Most people would talk about all the bad stuff that happened but they choose to see the glass half full. Honestly, I am really struggling as I watch what she is going through and have definitely cried about it. She is a beautiful human being who has done all the right things and cancer is taking her life. But I find strength in her attitude. Her grace in the face of such adversity is an inspiration to me.
What’s your favorite lesson you’ve ever learned?
I am in control of my life. I have been in some relationship (business and personal) where I have been taken advantage of. I used to think it just happens and was bad luck. I now know that others treat me the way I let them treat me. It took me a really long time (43 yrs) to figure that out, but it has transformed the way I live my life. I have an amazing coach to thank for that insight.
What's your go-to song to put you in a better mood?
If I need to pump myself up, I put on Walk on Water by Eminem and Beyonce.
Who is your hero?
My patients are my heroes.
3 words that you want to be remembered by.
Passionate, generous, badass
What’s the best piece of advice that you can give someone right now?
Do nice things for other people. It will make you feel so good and I promise it all comes back and will make your life richer.
What’s the next goal?
I am launching a new line of intimates for women with sensitive skin outside the breast cancer space. I am using what I have learned from designing for the most sensitive skin to create an everyday line of lingerie and loungewear that is luxurious and soft. The new line is called Minka and will launch in 2019. I am in a fashion accelerator, Factory 45 in preparation for this launch.
By "do-ing", you create your own unique legacy. How do you want your legacy to be remembered?
Doing good is good business.