Posted 3 years ago

Dr. Puneet Bhalla honored as a Healthcare Hero by Phoenix Business Journal

The Valley’s Health Care Heroes work selflessly each year treating patients and giving back to the community.

Honoring health care professionals in 2020 at the Phoenix Business Journal’s Health Care Heroes virtual event held Nov. 9, was even more important this year as these leaders have worked tirelessly caring for patients amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read the transcript below from Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers medical oncologist, Dr. Puneet Bhalla about what it means to be a Healthcare Hero:

Puneet Bhalla – Finalist, Physician

Job Title: Partner

Organization: Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers

How are you staying positive during Covid-19? I have tried to maintain my routine. I exercise at home instead of the gym. We’ve traveled out of town wearing masks almost everywhere and always indoors. We have like-minded responsible friends with whom we socialize while maintaining social distance. There have been times when the impact of how profoundly this has changed my life feels overwhelming but fortunately, those moments are rare and transient.

How have you focused on self-care during a stressful time? I am an outdoor person and traveled to Flagstaff several times to hike, bike, and golf. While in the Valley, weather permitting, I have participated in the same activities. Also have a mini gym at home that lets me meet my exercise goals and fitness routine.

What silver lining has come out of your organization’s Covid-19 experience? As an organization we decided at the onset of the pandemic when a dire economic outlook was forecast to focus on our employees, they have been truly selfless and have put patient care above all else. We ensured they had all the PPE including N95 masks, face shields, and gowns as needed. Their dedication to our patients is apparent. We are an excellent team able to prioritize the best outcomes for our patients.

How does compassion play a role in a health care hero? Being compassionate is essential to being a good human being. An empathetic and compassionate health care provider can comfort patients and provide solace even when medical options are exhausted. A kind word, a kind act makes the world a better place. True heroism also involves acknowledging that dignity and quality of life need to be considered in end-of-life discussions and as such, a high degree of compassion is imperative.


Marketing Director Sandra Surgeon and Dr. Puneet Bhalla Survivors Celebration Ironwood Cancer and Research Centers

Marketing Director Sandra Surgeon and Dr. Puneet Bhalla Survivors Celebration Ironwood Cancer and Research Centers

What are the three main ingredients for a successful health care career? To be successful in any career one requires a supportive, understanding spouse and family. In a healthcare career, of course, there are more stressors on the family given we sometimes bring the emotions of our patients back home with us, and given the odd work hours and always being “on call.” Having a good team of people that you can trust and rely upon to enable the best outcomes for patients is critical too. A sense of humor and wit always helps put people at ease.


What is the biggest lesson you learned early in your career that helped put you on track? I am in this field above all else to help and as such, prioritizing the welfare of my patients is critical, and one needs to learn to be an advocate for their care, whether that’s logging heads with insurance companies or convincing another provider of the best course of action. Secondly, when I was in medical school, in India, we had compulsory rotating horsemanship. I learned early on the challenges associated with working in an understaffed, underfunded government hospital system and realized that kindness would go a long way.

What motivates you in your work? I have happy colleagues at work that enjoy what they do for a living and are good at it. My nurse practitioner, my medical assistant, nurses, and physicians that I work with are top-notch. We are all focused as a team with but one thought in mind, the best outcome for our patients. This is what keeps me going and motivates me to go to work. I like helping people and sharing in their medical journey, whether it’s celebrating a cure milestone for a patient, or sitting with some other patient whose outcome is different and helping them deal with adversity and supporting them through that journey.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A tea estate manager in India. I’m glad now, in retrospect, much as I like the thought of a laid-back rustic life in some hill town in India with verdant tea plantations, that I instead followed my mother’s advice and became a physician. I enjoy my job, challenging as it is.

About Dr. Puneet Bhalla

Puneet Bhalla, MD

Dr. Puneet Bhalla is a board-certified Medical Oncologist and joined Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers in September 2006. Dr. Bhalla is a graduate of Bangalore Medical College, Bangalore University. He completed his Internal Medicine residency and Medical Oncology fellowship from William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan.

His research has been published in national and international oncology meetings and he remains actively involved in research at Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers. He has been practicing in the East Valley since 2003, initially in solo practice and since 2006 as part of Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers. He also serves on the Dignity Health East Valley Board of Directors for Mercy Gilbert and Chandler Regional Hospitals.

About Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers

Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers (ICRC) is the largest multi-specialty oncology network in the Greater Metro Phoenix area. They have over 100 medical providers, a robust Integrative Services program, and a dedicated clinical research department. Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers has 15 valley locations and five comprehensive cancer care centers that offer a multi-disciplinary approach for expedited personalized patient care. For more information, please visit