Friday, July 20, 2012


At my hospital part of our externship experience involves rotating through the outpatient clinic of our choice on Thursdays. I chose the Melanoma clinic knowing it is a cancer that I have a high risk of developing (you see having red hair, pale skin, freckles, more than one severe sunburn in my childhood, and growing up in the South makes me the ideal candidate) and that it strikes more young people than any other type of cancer. With Melanoma, a normal freckle or mole can just change overnight and then your whole live is turned upside down.  Melanoma, if not detected early, spreads quickly and doesn’t respond to treatment very effectively. On Thursdays, the patients we see are very scared and full of questions – they have just been diagnosed and they don’t know what lies ahead. And for most of these young people their lives are just starting – they are in high school, the middle of college, newly married, or have small children. They all come to our hospital because they want to be treated by the best Melanoma surgeons in the world.

Working in the clinic is quite different than the floor and at first I did not like it. I missed the fast pace of the floor and I liked seeing the immediate results of my actions – the patient is in pain, you give them medicine, and then they feel better. It sounds strange but in the clinic setting you see the patients more as normal people because they come in wearing their regular clothes and aren’t in a hospital bed. But these normal people have been diagnosed with Melanoma, a cancer that spreads aggressively and needs immediate surgery. However, I now see that the clinical staff that I work with, from the schedulers, to the nurses and the doctors, has the opportunity to give these patients hope. They have time to sit down and talk to the patient and their family, the can calm their fears and answer their questions, they make a treatment plan and the patient leaves knowing they have a whole team behind them that wants to fight this disease just as bad as they do. 

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