I vividly remember reading about cancer in my science textbook when I was in grade school. I donít know why I found this fascinating at age 9, but I did. Little did I know at that time how that seed of inspiration would shape my future.
In my last job interview (for the medical oncology practice where I now work), I shared this early memory with the medical director and clinical director. I knew it might look silly, but I wanted to share my passion for being brave enough to venture into oncology to help every person fight this battle, and how I sensed that call at a very young age. The practice hired me, so I guess I didnít come across as too corny!
Imagine my surprise when I heard that Siddhartha Mukherjee won the Pulitzer Prize for the book he wrote in 2010, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. I knew I had to read this book. It would provide the historical account of cancer and get me up to date on what I missed after reading my first textbook about cancer at age 9. And it did! This book is close to 500 pages and took me about six months to complete (among all my other reading activities).
Not only did it provide a very detailed account of the history of cancer, but it also struck a theme over and over again that I believe all of us in oncology need to hear: collaboration. Thatís right, collaboration! Cancer is a large disease, and our historical attack on it has been unrelenting. However, there have been ďsilosĒ of discoveries or advancements. Mukherjee's central theme is that oncology cannot advance without the collaboration of everyone involved.
"Everyone" includes not only the patient, nurses, and providers, but also the pharmacists, social workers, family members, employers, insurance companies, and government. The book made me realize we need to share more and more of our information, experiences, and knowledge to ensure oncology continues to advance in its successes. It's just like what we are doing on TheONC. Our community is constantly sharing, collaborating, and learning from one another, and that will ultimately benefit our patients.
Even the Institute of Medicine (IOM) realizes how important collaboration is. Its National Cancer Policy Forum provides information on the fight against cancer. In 2010, it held a workshop dedicated to the benefits and challenges of collaboration. A free document summarizes the workshop, "Extending the Spectrum of Precompetitive Collaboration in Oncology Research."
One of the IOM's missions is quoted appropriately as follows:
In fields such as oncology, in which patientsí survival may depend on new treatments, there is an urgent need to find a more productive way to develop drugs through cooperation among industry, academia, government, and philanthropic organizations. One solution may be increased precompetitive collaboration, or the collaboration among competitors to achieve goals with the potential to benefit everyone, in oncology drug development. Such collaboration would allow institutions to pool resources and expertise for the multidisciplinary research necessary for drug development. In addition, groups working toward similar objectives could learn from one anotherís successes and failures, furthering progress toward a shared goal.
Wow. How true. In our efforts to continue to discover targeted therapy, this mission makes perfect sense. Since reading the book, I am mindful of all situations where I can be of assistance and participate willingly in collaboration.
One example: Our practice participates in a monthly research meeting where the research department, physicians, nurse managers, and nurse practitioners meet to review new clinical trials and discuss relevant topics.
Do you have any great collaboration processes at your facility? If so, Iíd love to hear about them.