Personalizing Cancer Care


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Richard Schilsky, MD

“Sometimes in our desire to reach a scientific understanding of cancer, we forget that our main objective is to connect with and care for the patient.”

—Richard Schilsky, MD

Durng my Presidency we completely revamped the way the ASCO Board of Directors works by creating various subcommittees and a much more deliberate strategic planning process. In effect, the Board members took more ownership of ASCO’s agenda, planning the future of the Society rather than dealing with its multiple operational aspects. It was an important change for ASCO.

My theme was Personalizing Cancer Care and I was pleased that my Presidential speech was enthusiastically received. However, as I was leaving the hall a patient advocate stopped me and said that she was very disappointed with my speech. I asked why? She said all I talked about was molecular pathology and genotyping. To her, personalized medicine meant that the doctor gets to know each patient as an individual and delivers the kind of personalized care they need.

As physicians, our goal is to understand the needs of each patient and then provide a treatment plan built around a set of personalized needs and goals. The patient advocate’s comment made me remember that sometimes in our desire to reach a scientific understanding of cancer, we forget that our main objective is to connect with and care for the patient. I’ll never forget that encounter. ■


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