As a cancer surgeon, my approach to care focuses heavily on communication with patients and their loved ones. Quite simply, I treat patients as I would want to be treated myself as a patient.
As a surgeon who specializes in complex surgical oncology and hepatobiliary diseases, I recognize that my first encounter with a patient is usually the worst day of his or her life.
My philosophy for patient care is to provide optimal care with humanity in mind. I demand excellence of myself in both knowledge base and technical skills, which I believe are an absolute prerequisite.
However, I recognize that being a cancer surgeon is much more than removing cancerous growths, and my approach to care focuses heavily on communication with patients and their loved ones. I see myself as a patient’s educator, counselor, advocate, surgeon, and caregiver for life. Quite simply, I treat patients as I would want to be treated myself as a patient.
Every patient is unique and arrives in my clinic with varying levels of health literacy and different past experiences with doctors. My initial approach to these patients is to develop a relationship by educating them about their disease and preparing them for treatment. These are extremely important conversations that I believe secure the trust necessary for a healthy doctor-patient relationship.
The initial encounter needs to balance discussing the severity of the diagnosis and explaining what to expect, but also needs to make a connection on a personal level. I firmly believe that this initial encounter in my field is critical, and I spend a great deal of energy and time developing this relationship.
The operations and post-operative care demand excellence and attention to detail. I demand absolute perfection from myself. The operations that I perform are extremely high risk and have complications even when executed perfectly. Frequently, my patients have been denied surgery at other institutions because of the location of tumors or high-risk co-morbidities.
I accept the problems that can occur after high-risk surgery, own these problems, and communicate the plan with patients and their families if they occur. Communication is never more important than when things are not going as planned, and patients deserve attention to every detail.
Following surgery, I meet with my cancer patients for life. I see myself as their primary advocate when they are deciding on adjuvant treatments. I am sensitive to the fact that every office visit means a potential cancer recurrence in my patients’ minds.
The truth is that, just as I have had an impact on my patients’ lives, they have each had a substantial impact on my life. There is nothing that I enjoy more than the personal relationships that I develop with my patients. I treat patients as people, not as operations or cancers or subjects. The result is that my patients and I have a special bond that lasts our lifetimes.