This continues a monthly series profiling a physician member of the #BCSM Community.
Why does connecting on social media matter to you?
It has become a rich source of feedback, whether it is on a new study, news item, or drug approval, I have found the insights from other perspectives to be quite important, and I don’t know if I could have ever gotten more enriching feedback any where else. I’ve also connected with so many people who have enriched my career through contact on line and in person. I believe it has been a source of perseverance for me, preventing burnout.
Can you really counsel patients online?
I prefer not to speak directly to a particular clinical situation- you may be able to answer a question, but its so much more important to get the context right. Medicine is rarely a one-size fits all approach, nor is there only “one way” to do anything in medicine. I think we can get into trouble when communicating in absolutes (ie, “this is the only chemotherapy you should use”). You have to acknowledge that medicine, like life, is not black and white…there are a ton of grays.
What is your responsibility beyond the patients you see in your office?
I am a writer and editor and recently named the Clinical Co-Director of Gynecologic Oncology. This comes with a lot of administrative responsibilities, to ensure our patients are treated with the quality one would expect at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.
Where can patients find reliable information in your speciality?
I might be biased, but cancer.net, which is sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), is excellent- the information is geared to patients so it’s light on med-speak!
How important are second opinions?
Very. I think the stakes are too high, especially with cancer. One needs to feel comfortable with their treatment team, and the treatment plan. Oftentimes, it takes a second opinion to get there.
How does a patient switch doctors?
First, by remembering that they are not there to assuage a physician’s ego, and that it is the patient’s right to receive appropriate medical care (as self defined). Second, remember that patients are consumers of health care, and as such, they have the right to find care elsewhere. If one decides to switch physicians, it would be important to have some support- both from the physician’s office (practice manager) and the other physician whom she is transferring to. In New York City, Memorial Sloan-Kettering had patient advocates to help the doc and their patient navigate a change in care, but even where that does not exist, it is still important to listen to your gut, and if it says, “I’m not comfortable”, find a new doctor.
Dr. Don S. Dizon is the Clinical Co-Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. He is a regular contributor to the ASCO Connection blog, and can be found on Twitter: @drdonsdizon.