During my tenure as a medical humanist at a cancer center in Vermont, I was an eyewitness to the challenges that patients and healthcare providers faced in communicating about serious illness. What I learned became source material for the Center for Communication in Medicine’s (CCM) programs and tools to improve healthcare communication. Although the educational […]
I recently discovered an article I wrote titled “A Medical Humanist Says Good-bye” that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (July 9, 2008). It recounted the role of medical humanist I created at the cancer center in Bennington, Vermont and the position coming to an end. Included in the article was […]
As with all newly diagnosed patients, I would introduce myself and explain the role of a medical humanist on the cancer care team, emphasizing how I could help to facilitate communication with their doctor about what may not have been understood regarding their diagnosis, treatment plan, prognosis and supportive care needs. On this particular […]
In the video accompanying SpeakSooner: A Patient’s Guide to Difficult Conversations we hear Fritz, who’s living with advanced prostate cancer, acknowledge that the rewards of continuing treatment more than exceed the risks but understands that there are no guarantees. He states that he and his wife decide together “to do whatever my physician thought was […]
The role of spirituality in facing a health crisis varies from patient to patient. For healthcare providers, who rely on medical science, it can be a contentious subject. We posed the question of spirituality to a group of cancer patients who were interviewed for the Center for Communication in Medicine’s video Voices From the Lived […]
The concept of hope can be elusive for those facing a cancer diagnosis. In the Center for Communication in Medicine’s (CCM) video Voices from the Lived World of Illness we hear Adrienne Barnes say, “Hope is different from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day…” She is telling us what one “hopes for” […]
When facing a cancer diagnosis, you quickly learn who shows up and who retreats. The impact of illness on relationships was one of the topics discussed with four cancer patients in the Center for Communication in Medicine’s video “Voices from the Lived World of Illness.” As producers of the video, psychologist Dr. Bernard Bandman and […]
I’ve always been drawn to Jane Kenyon’s poem “Otherwise.” Her words help me to stop and reflect upon what’s happening in the moment. How often do we not pay attention and appreciate the little things in our daily lives? Kenyon wrote, “I got out of bed on two strong legs. It might have been […]
I had the good fortune of working with the late Dr. James Wallace, the first oncologist in the State of Vermont, who came out of retirement to practicing part-time at the cancer center in Bennington. He would talk about the early days at the National Institute of Health (NIH) when chemotherapy was mostly experimental. In passing, he told me that a colleague at that time was Dr. Sidney Farber, the name attached to Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. While at NIH he worked with pioneers in the new field of oncology.
In a New Yorker article “Why Storytelling Is Part Of Being A Good Doctor” (July 25, 2022) Dr. Jerome Groopman confides, “For two decades, I had seen my patients and their loved ones face some of life’s most uncertain moments, and I now felt driven to bear witness to their stories.” He tells us how he felt inspired to write about his experiences as a doctor as had others before him.