Many specialists, one goal: How we train whole teams to provide the best care possible

Interdisciplinary care is a hallmark of cancer care at MD Anderson. Teams of specialists care for patients from cancer diagnosis to treatment and beyond, and many of those specialists – medical and nonmedical – are trained right here. “Our patients have unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs,” says Diane Bodurka, M.D. “The more your training is directed towards oncology patients and their needs and expectations, the better care you’ll be able to provide. There are both obvious and subtle differences between oncology and general health care.” MD Anderson has fellowships, residencies and other student programs focused on cancer care in dozens of areas, not only medicine but also social work, pharmacy, nutrition, clinical ethics and more. Learning by doing Even though non-physician trainees are learning different aspects of cancer care than physicians and nurses, it doesn’t mean they can forgo rigorous training. Most of our fellowships are nationally accredited and must adhere to high standards of excellence. Many students go on to take board certification exams at the end of their programs. “We’ve been accredited since 1973,” says Chaplain Gale Kennebrew, D.Min., director of Spiritual Care and Education. “Our students spend at least 300 hours in clinical training, learning by doing. When they complete our program, they’re able to provide support to all people, but especially those with the complex issues surrounding a cancer diagnosis.” They also receive training that crosses all types of faiths and belief systems, enabling them to connect with diverse patient populations and listen to what’s important to them, Kennebrew says. Chaplains serve as a vital part of MD Anderson’s care teams, working not only...

Many specialists, one goal: How we train whole teams to provide the best care possible

Interdisciplinary care is a hallmark of cancer care at MD Anderson. Teams of specialists care for patients from cancer diagnosis to treatment and beyond, and many of those specialists – medical and nonmedical – are trained right here. “Our patients have unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs,” says Diane Bodurka, M.D. “The more your training is directed towards oncology patients and their needs and expectations, the better care you’ll be able to provide. There are both obvious and subtle differences between oncology and general health care.” MD Anderson has fellowships, residencies and other student programs focused on cancer care in dozens of areas, not only medicine but also social work, pharmacy, nutrition, clinical ethics and more. Learning by doing Even though non-physician trainees are learning different aspects of cancer care than physicians and nurses, it doesn’t mean they can forgo rigorous training. Most of our fellowships are nationally accredited and must adhere to high standards of excellence. Many students go on to take board certification exams at the end of their programs. “We’ve been accredited since 1973,” says Chaplain Gale Kennebrew, D.Min., director of Spiritual Care and Education. “Our students spend at least 300 hours in clinical training, learning by doing. When they complete our program, they’re able to provide support to all people, but especially those with the complex issues surrounding a cancer diagnosis.” They also receive training that crosses all types of faiths and belief systems, enabling them to connect with diverse patient populations and listen to what’s important to them, Kennebrew says. Chaplains serve as a vital part of MD Anderson’s care teams, working not only...

How we’re helping radiation-therapy researchers around the world

It’s a good bet that somewhere out there, perhaps on the other side of the globe, a package from MD Anderson will be delivered to a cancer researcher today. Inside, the recipient will find a carefully cushioned plastic body part. Possibly a head, spinal cord or liver. Following the enclosed instructions, they’ll position the “anthropomorphic phantom” under their radiation therapy machine as they would a patient and run through some tests. Then they’ll send the irradiated phantom back to MD Anderson for analysis. That analysis is just one of the services performed by a team in Outreach Physics whose job it is to make sure that radiation-therapy facilities wanting to participate in group clinical trials can deliver doses that are comparable and consistent from institution to institution. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has relied on MD Anderson to monitor the machines used to deliver radiation therapy in NCI-funded studies for the last 50 years. The part of Outreach Physics that’s funded by a long-term NCI grant is our Imaging and Radiation Oncology Core – Houston Quality Assurance Center, better known as IROC Houston. “We’re here to minimize uncertainty and maximize accuracy,” says physicist David Followill, Ph.D., chief of Outreach Physics and director of IROC Houston. “We’re kind of the watchdog for radiation therapy.” Last year, IROC Houston monitored 2,200 radiation facilities across the United States and 60 countries.   This is done in several ways. Gauging radiation output Radiation output for every machine in an NCI-funded study must be measured annually to ensure all 5,000 of them are calibrated properly. The enormous task is accomplished mostly by mail. IROC...

Best of Cancerwise 2018: Our most-read cancer patient stories

Courage. Hope. Love. Faith. Strength. Wisdom. These are a few of the gifts that our cancer survivors shared with us on Cancerwise this past year. And though each of their stories is unique, every survivor shared his or her experience with us to give hope, light and help to others facing cancer. Here are 11 of our survivors’ most-read blog posts from this past year. Whether you’re newly diagnosed, in the midst of cancer treatment, exploring clinical trials or facing life after cancer, we hope you find something that speaks to you. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor: A CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial gave me my life back When Emily Dumler received a CAR T-cell therapy infusion in July 2015, she was only the second patient at MD Anderson and the third in the world to receive CAR-T cells to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on this clinical trial. She wasn’t sure her life would ever be normal again. My brain tumor story: From caregiver to patient As a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Puerto Rico, Gloria Suau always tell her patients that no matter how hard or difficult a situation is, there’s always something positive that we can learn. Now, after supporting two loved ones through brain tumor diagnoses and then facing her own, she understands how true this statement is. Stage IV melanoma survivor: An immunotherapy clinical trial saved my life When Steve Hamilton thinks about the day in May 2011 when he was told nothing more could be done for him, the thought of being cancer-free for five years is pretty amazing. But that’s exactly what he’ll celebrate if his...

Best of Cancerwise 2018: 9 inspiring quotes from our cancer patients and caregivers

Remaining hopeful during cancer treatment is as much an art as it is a skill. And, our cancer patients and their families demonstrate this on a regular basis. Here are nine quotes that our patients and their caregivers shared with us on our Cancerwise blog this past year that reveal how they stayed motivated in the face of adversity. Our wish this holiday season is that at least one of them will help you through cancer, too. “Cancer is just a chapter in our lives and not the whole story.” — Allie Moreno “Every day you wake up is another opportunity to be a blessing to someone else.” — Jacqueline Wallace  “Today is enough.” — Josh Taylor “Life becomes more purposeful when you’re doing something good.” — Brendan Locke “Giving in to the darkness offers no benefit.” — Marivel Preciado “Cancer is a part of our life, but it’s not our whole life.” — Nick Prochak  “There’s almost always something to smile about.” — Aaliyah Parker “You can do anything you set your mind to.” — Layne Compston “When cancer happens, you don’t put life on hold. You live now.” — Fabi Powell What saying helps you get through the day? Share your story. Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling...