As early-career oncologists, Rachna Shroff, MD, and Nina Shah, MD, offered patients a textbook bedside manner—personal interactions were limited, and emotions were rarely shared.
“People talk about how, especially in oncology, the more you let [a patient] in, the more profoundly you feel losses, and the more prone you are to burnout,” explained Dr. Shroff.
However, when these doctors’ parents were diagnosed with cancer, they understood on a personal level how consuming living with cancer can be for everyone involved.
“I can’t believe I didn’t realize it until I saw my mom taking care of my dad for a very extended and intense period of time,” said Dr. Shah. “I really began to not only speak to the patient, but to the caregiver, and I really started to see it from both their perspectives.”
Likewise, Dr. Shroff changed the way she explained risks to patients after her mother experienced hearing loss from chemotherapy during her lung cancer treatment. Both doctors began prioritizing reporting results to patients when they realized how agonizing waiting on answers is to patients.
“I am willing to let them in a little bit. They have access to me, not just my clinical team,” said Dr. Shroff, who now calls and texts patients with results. “When it was my mother, I needed to hear from the doctor.”
The role reversal also changed their perspectives on clinical research and the contributions patients make to science in their own effort to survive. In the conversation, Dr. Shroff describes the powerful feeling of knowing a loved one with cancer has benefited from the progress that has been achieved through clinical research.
For their advice to young oncologists and more on their story, listen to the full episode of the Your Stories Podcast at CONQUER.ORG, or on iTunes or Google Play.
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