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M. D. Anderson's Lois Ramondetta Recognized for Excellence in Patient Care

Prestigious Rogers Award to Honor Gynecologic Oncologist With $10,000 Prize

M. D. Anderson News Release 10/20/09

Lois M. Ramondetta, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, is the recipient of the 2009 Julie and Ben Rogers Award for Excellence in Patient Care.

The $10,000 award, which rotates annually among areas of patient care, research, education, prevention and administration, recognizes employees who consistently demonstrate excellence in their work and dedication to M. D. Anderson's mission to eliminate cancer. Ramondetta, who was chosen from nearly 60 nominees, will formally receive the award at a 2 p.m. presentation ceremony Oct. 27 at M. D. Anderson's Frank E. Anderson Conference Hall, Rooms 1, 2, 7 and 8.

Ramondetta is chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Harris County Hospital District's Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, a program staffed by M . D. Anderson pysicians and funded in part by M. D. Anderson. There Ramondetta leads a gynecologic oncology team to provide underserved patient populations access to clinical trials of potential new therapies, state-of-the-art patient care and psychosocial support. The latter, she says, "might very well include hugs, kisses and loving care."

"The time taken listening, hearing and empathizing can help revive not only the awe of medicine but also the awe for life," said Ramondetta, who received undergraduate degrees in biology and religion from Emory University in Atlanta before completing her medical degree at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J.

Ramondetta, who also completed a lay chaplaincy program at Emory, recently worked with M. D. Anderson's chaplaincy department to develop a quarterly program for fellows in her department to discuss ethical and spiritual issues they might encounter as oncologists.

"I believe exploring these issues with patients deepens our ability to care for others, lessens suffering and validates beliefs," she said.

Entering her 10th year on the faculty at M. D. Anderson, Ramondetta has published extensively and is a collaborator/investigator on national and international clinical trials. She maintains an active voice on numerous boards and committees in the medical community, including the Harris County Hospital District cancer committee, which she chairs.

Dividing her time among patients at M. D. Anderson and at LBJ, she finds herself in many roles: clinician, surgeon, social worker, psychiatrist, pain specialist, palliative care doctor, family counselor and friend. A mentor once told her she had the tenacity of a pit bull.

"I've learned to use that trait to my patients' advantage," she said. "Continuity with one's oncologist is extremely important. Many of my patients live under tough economic conditions and require a dedicated advocate."

The Pearland resident and mother of two daughters says she was drawn to her chosen field because of "the intensity of the patient-physician relationship and the sense of solidarity" that comes from working together throughout treatment.

"I'm blessed to be able to do this, to be involved in a part of life that most people don't get to see," said Ramondetta. "There's no off-service in gynecologic oncology. We're special."

The potential began to unfold in 1998 when, as a fellow at M. D. Anderson, Ramondetta became acquainted with ovarian cancer patient Deborah Rose Sills, Ph.D., a professor of religion at California Lutheran University. The deep friendship that ensued inspired the two to write "The Light Within," a book chronicling their journey together until Sills' death in 2006. (Ramondetta, featured in the fall 2008 issue of Conquest magazine, discusses the book and her relationship with Sills: http://tinyurl.com/yhkp7rn)

"Very often the most important aspects of care that I offer my patients are compassion and empathy and a hand to hold as they experience cancer's effects on their lives," said Ramondetta. "It's about living - living every moment to the fullest extent you can and knowing as a physician that you did everything you could for the patient."

Regina Rogers, a senior member of M. D. Anderson's Board of Visitors, established the Rogers Award in 1987 in honor of her parents, the late Julie and Ben Rogers, and in appreciation of the treatment her brother and her mother received at the institution for thyroid cancer and breast cancer, respectively. Ben Rogers served on the Board of Visitors from 1978 until his death in 1994, when his daughter and wife established the Julie & Ben Rogers Breast Diagnostic Clinic in his memory. Julie Rogers died in 1998.

"After nearly a 50-year relationship, M. D. Anderson is like family to me, and I am honored to recognize the dedication, excellence and integrity that permeate this institution at every level," said Rogers. "Anderson continues to save people's lives, minute by minute. I don't think there is any greater mission in life." 10/20/09


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