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Paradise Right Setting for Transplant Experts

Family Matters - Spring 2011

By Nicole Rosipal
Close your eyes and imagine the setting – temperatures in the low 80s, clear blue skies and sparkling water.

But I wasn’t in Honolulu for the beautiful beaches. Instead, I joined 2,400 other professionals to attend the 2011 American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) Tandem Meetings.

Nurses, physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, statisticians and other health care professionals gathered to learn how to best and most creatively care for our patients.

The first day’s focus was on ways to better predict which patients are at risk for developing complications of transplant such as graft-versus-host disease. We also discussed ways to predict who will have a better response to treatment.  

Defining risk factors more precisely is crucial. Transplant physicians are focused on finding alternatives to total body irradiation (TBI) and ways to minimize the long-term effects associated with TBI in pediatric patients.  

Transparency key

An underlying theme of the conference was the importance of transparency — being clear, direct and honest with our colleagues and patients. This involves:

  • increasing awareness that stem cell transplant is a potential treatment for sickle cell disease;
  • recognizing that each patient has unique needs;
  • teasing out who has intermediate disease versus high- or very high-risk disease; and
  • using that knowledge to define when chemotherapy versus stem cell transplant is best.  

I presented a poster on the new fertility clinic at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital. In the clinic, we educate patients and their caregivers about the potential for infertility after stem cell transplant and other cancer treatments. For this population of patients, such discussion is essential.

Considering the evolution of health care in the United States, many discussions centered on how the changes will affect stem cell transplantation and cell therapy. A few topics were:

  • The impact of health care reform on stem cell transplant. For instance, Arizona Medicare does not pay for matched unrelated donor transplants.
  • The changing workforce. There’s an aging physician and nurse work force and a decrease in graduates, yet the demand for medical care is growing.
  • Creativity and a realization that one size does not fit all. This is key to discovering innovative ways to deliver care while maintaining excellence.

Common mission

The sharing of experience, perspectives and ideas for finding the best treatments resonated through the conference, and I was excited to be part of it.  

The common mission of all who work in oncology — and particularly in blood and marrow transplantation — came into sharp focus when transplant donor and motivational speaker Kevin Walsh shared his story. In “The Marrow in Me,” he reminded us that anything is possible.  

Hope is a way of life for our patients and for all who care for them.  

Rosipal is an advanced practice nurse on the stem cell transplant team for the Children’s Cancer Hospital.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center