When I interviewed Marcia Jackson, PhD, American College of Cardiology, for the last installment in our women leaders series (see page 25), she told me she had just finished chemotherapy and radiation treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I asked how she coped with such a serious crisis. In addition to the support she received from family, friends, and co-workers, she said a colleague whom she has never met became an important e-mail friend. Diagnosed with the same disease several years ago, Jackson's colleague had made a vow that if she survived, she would become a cancer angel to someone else. And she did.
After we talked, I thought about how Jackson, in a less direct way and without knowing it, had provided support for me during a difficult time. When I was diagnosed in 2002 with a hereditary disease, I encountered some upsetting responses from my family. One close relative said that I couldn't have gotten the illness from her, and another didn't believe it could be inherited since no one else in the family had it. These reactions, while frustrating, were not surprising — because of what I learned at the Alliance for CME's annual conference in 2000.
One of the themes addressed in the conference was how decoding the human genome would affect healthcare. During a plenary session, panelists discussed the fear, denial, and stigma surrounding genetically based diseases. When dealing with my situation, I remembered that session and was able to put my family's reactions into context.
Jackson, who served as chair of the conference planning committee, said the goal of the organizers was to personalize medicine and highlight the doctor/patient relationship. They certainly succeeded in personalizing medicine for me, as I'm sure they did for other attendees.
During another plenary that focused on the patient/physician relationship, Rorie Fore and her husband, Robert Fore, MD, a former Alliance for CME board member, gave an extremely moving presentation about her experience with breast cancer. When Rorie was in the operating room, waiting for her mastectomy, her doctor invited Robert to stay with her until she was put under anesthesia, telling her that since they went to sleep together every night, he knew they needed to be together when she went to sleep that day.
The insights of Jackson, the Fores, and other CME professionals who have experienced illness and disability are an invaluable resource for the healthcare education community. The Fores' story, for instance, provides a terrific example of compassionate physician behavior. I hope that the CME community will continue to emphasize the emotional side of medicine, and when developing education to improve the patient/physician relationship, give voice to those who bring not only professional expertise but personal perspective to healthcare.
Congratulations to Art Director Scott Raymond for winning a 2005 American Graphic Design Award for' March/April cover, depicting a goldfish trapped in a bowl, with the headline “Don't Panic!”
And a big thank-you to Scott, and Sharon Carlson, our other art director extraordinaire, for their design of our new logo, shown on this issue's front cover.
You'll also find a new look and lots more functionality at our Web site, meetingsnet.com. A huge thank-you to our Web team, in particular, Executive Editor and Web Editor Sue Pelletier for her vision, hard work, and expertise.