A Pleasant Morning at MD Anderson: My Patient Experience

A Pleasant Morning at MD
Anderson: My Patient Experience


Leonard Zwelling

         That’s right. I may have retired as a faculty member, but I
am still a patient. I am fortunate in that I am not a cancer patient–yet, but after all, all of us Boomers are potential cancer patients in waiting.

         My home clinic is the Head and Neck Center because, as most
all of you will attest to, I am hard of hearing. Too much Jefferson Airplane in
the 60’s!

Audiology Department at Anderson is superb and I have been cared for there for
several years all the way to the acquisition of hearing aids for high frequency
hearing loss.  The only good news is that
I did not lose my hearing due to chemotherapy but due to rockotherapy.

         But I am also a patient in the GU Center. I am 67 now and
unfortunately, a close clinical monitoring of prostate function is in the cards
for me. Of course, being the hypochondriac I am, I get an annual PSA, because I
would get biopsies and treatment should it rise precipitously. But my primary
care doctor and I are also firm believers in the physical exam as a screening
tool and there is nobody like a GU surgeon to do a digital rectal prostate exam
(DRE). Let’s face it. More than internists, they know the architecture from the
inside and out. So once a year, I check in with John Davis for my peace of mind
and should there be a problem, where better else to be?

         Strangely, I was to see Dr. Davis at 8 AM and have the PSA
drawn at 11:15 according to myMDAnderson. I exercised my clinical acumen and
showed up at the lab at 7:30 and got the blood drawing done before the DRE and it was
ready for Dr. Davis when I saw him. Now that’s efficient. I was lucky again and
it was 2.2 and my exam was acceptable. As if I needed further reminders of my
aging, Dr. Davis confirmed what I had suspected that my prostate is not as
young as it used to be, but it was still in the benign category which was just
fine with me.

         Like the government, Anderson is often accused of
inefficiency and as everyone I spoke with on Dr. Davis’ staff reminded me, the
big day for EPIC is coming up at week’s end and the trepidation is high.
Nonetheless, the attitude I found was cautious optimism and a hope that in the
end, this new system will be for the good of the institution. O that the executives
took such an attitude!

         My wait time in the lab was no more than 10 minutes and it
was about the same in the GU Center. I saw a medical assistant (weight, BP,
etc), a nurse, a nurse practitioner, and Dr. Davis in quick succession. The
whole appointment from parking ticket to parking payment was about 2 hours. Not
bad at all.

         I am just writing this to let you faculty and staff out
there know that at least one patient is very grateful for the care he got and
for the efficiency and pleasantness with which it was delivered. I am one of
the harshest critics of the leadership of Anderson and the direction that
leadership has taken the institution in matters of policy, finance, big data,
big research, and personal behavior. It is only fair that when the clinical
experience is as good as the decisions are bad, that is also noted.

         I have no idea if my experience is representative of the
experiences of others like those with serious malignancies being seen in many
clinics. I don’t know what the imaging wait is like for radiology exams. I
don’t know a thing about the food or the parking in the TMC lots.

         All I can say is that this day in this lab and in this
clinic I was treated exceedingly well by people who clearly value and comport
themselves along the lines of the core values of discovery, integrity and

         It was very professional. Nice job, all!


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