Sep 08 2009

hope in the oncology office

Published by at 10:45 pm under 5D mkII video,breast cancer,healthcare,worklife

I expected more sadness than hope in the Cancer Care Associates oncology office, but I found just the opposite. Decades ago I made a quick portrait of an oncologist who had just finished informing his second patient of the day that his cancer had returned. I imagined how hard it would be to go into work everyday with that prospect. Yet my social experiences with David Chan and his family have always been pleasant and upbeat.

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Dr. David Chan talking with a patient

The hope I experienced in the office could be a sign of the progress of cancer treatment or the optimism that is deployed to supplement the treatment . Even while witnessing the visit of a 77 year old woman there was no despair as she recited the litany of complications resulting from her cancer and advanced age. She knew that she lived a good long life and was resigned to the fact that death was near. The appointment focused on the smaller details of her medical care Рsuch as billing the insurance company for her wheel-chair and receive help with the issues that caused her pain. Dr. Thomas Lowe was very attentive, listening to her needs, writing the prescriptions and guiding his patient to the appropriate staff members that followed-up with her scheduling and questions.

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Patient with breast cancer receiving an infusion of Herceptin

For many patients the repeat visits take place in one of the three infusion rooms. Here is where the long hours of chemotherapy infusion take place while patients sit in lounge chairs. Surprisingly this too is a happier place than I expected. The nursing staff become familiar with the patients and there is a shared bonding experience with others in treatment.

Drip chamber for an intravenous infusion set delivering chemotherapy

You can view the full resolution file here and then come back. It’s big, but short. Control is in lower left-hand corner. (Works better in Safari than Firefox.)

Some patients bring in family members to play board games and there is a warm chatting with staff members to pass the time. It was a friendlier place than the short term medical reception waiting room. People know that they will be here a while and are looking to make the best of their time together.

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Medical file clerk searching for a patient chart

Tucked away out of sight from most patients is the billing and medical record side of the office. Caitlin spends much of her day spinning through the racks of charts pulling out and stuffing back the medical records. There is great expectations on the cost-savings and streamlining of care that will be achieved with the introduction of electronic medical records, but David is waiting for the next drop in system prices before he is ready to commit to the new technology.

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Radiologist reviewing digital mammograms

Downstairs there is another categorization task taking place. Here we see the new technology coming into play as radiologist Dr. Glenn Huettner is able to zoom in on questionable areas of digital mammograms.

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Medical research binders for a breast cancer study

The greatest hope for future treatment resides in the far corner office full of research binders. Row upon row of clinical trial data is collected from the treatment of Cancer Care Associates patients and combined with similar sites to help develop tomorrow’s treatments and potential cures.

Mark Harmel
harmelphoto.com

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