Leadership and Faculty

The program for Interpersonal Communication And Relationship Enhancement (I*CARE) is a continuing education program for both clinical and research faculty, nurses, physician assistants and other health care professionals.

The programs presented are based on best practices and have been created and developed by Walter F Baile, M.D., and Robert Buckman, M.D., Ph.D. Additional expertise is provided by our faculty.

I*CARE is a program of the Department of Faculty & Academic Development in the Division of Academic Affairs under Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs.

This program is funded by a grant from the University Cancer Foundation and by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Ronald DePinho, M.D., President.

The information on the site is maintained by the I*CARE program staff.

Download the I*CARE brochure PDF document

Our Mission

Most cancer clinicians have not had the opportunity to develop their skills in managing difficult patient encounters such as those where there are strong emotions, stressed families or uncomfortable conversations when transitioning a patient to palliative care or discussing end of life. Oncology providers want to extend their role beyond treating disease to establishing a therapeutic and supportive alliance with the patient and family. Our goal is to assist you in sharpening the skills necessary to manage these challenging encounters.

Program Directors

Walter F. Baile, M.D.Walter F. Baile, M.D., program director, has refined the techniques of teaching communication skills to include video and other media. According to Dr. Baile, “Communication is the cornerstone of comprehensive cancer care... it allows oncology clinicians to build meaningful relationships with their patients.” Dr. Baile has brought his talents in teaching communication skills to many parts of the world. He has published extensively in the area of oncology communication.




Catherine D. Kirkwood, MPHCatherine D. Kirkwood, M.P.H., Project Director, Academic Affairs, has 36 years of success in the development of educational programs for health care professionals in the Texas Medical Center. She is the former Clinical Education Director for the University of Texas AIDS Education & Training Center (AIDS ETC) for Texas and Oklahoma and Education Manager for The UT MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Complementary / Integrative Medicine Education Resources (CIMER) program/website. She was the Project Director for the International Health and Medical Media (FREDDIE) Award winning program “Important Conversations: Talking with Patients About Complementary Therapies” and the Telly Award winning program "Crossroads," which received two bronze awards in the categories of "Education" and "Training" and the highest award, the Silver People's Telly Award.


Program Faculty

Robert Buckman, M.D., Ph.D.Robert Buckman, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Oncologist at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Professor at the University of Toronto and Adjunct Professor at MD Anderson, established many of the principles and protocols in the area of communication skills and his techniques are taught at hospitals and medical schools around the world. He produced a video series for patients and their doctors explaining in laymen’s terms the symptoms and treatment of common illnesses, from angina to breast cancer. The content in this series earned a five-star rating from the EPEC (Educating Practitioners in End of Life Care) program and a bronze award from the British Medical Association.  More


Daniel Epner, M.D.Daniel Epner, M.D., received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and completed his clinical and research fellowship in medical oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Epner is on the faculty in the Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine. His primary scholarly focus is patient-provider communication and teaching communication skills. Dr. Epner has published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and is developing research and educational programs to improve cancer care near the end of life.

Rhea Herrington, BSN, RN, CCRNRhea Herrington, BSN, RN, CCRN has been in nursing for over 20 years; including Critical Care and Nursing Education.  She has extensive experience in working with patients, families, and staff in difficult communication and end-of-life issues.   As an End-of-Life Nursing Consortium Core (ELNEC) trainer, she participates in teaching the ELNEC Core Curriculum to nurses in the Houston Area.  She also coordinates workshops for critical care nurses on challenging conversations in the ICU.  She is an active board member of the Houston Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (HGCC-AACN) and helps develop educational offerings and certification review courses for local Critical Care Nurses and students.


Renato Lenzi, M.D., FACPRenato Lenzi, M.D., FACP, is a medical oncologist and clinical associate professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Lenzi has designed and taught communication skills workshops for oncologists nationally and internationally in collaboration with Drs. Baile and Buckman. He is currently conducting research on physician / patient communication in patients with pancreatic cancer and unknown primary cancer and in the design and evaluation of communication training in oncology.



Patricia A. Parker, Ph.D.Patricia A. Parker, Ph.D., is Director of the Communication Skills Training and Research Program, Associate Member and Associate Attending Psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her primary focus is in conducting research in the area of healthcare practitioner-patient communication and quality of life of individuals with cancer. Dr. Parker has received peer-reviewed funding from the NIH, PCORI and from philanthropic organizations for her research in communication and decision-making.



Dr. Antonella Surbone  Antonella Surbone, M.D., Ph.D., trained in radiation therapy and medical oncology at the National Tumor Institute in Milan, Italy, and at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda. She is currently professor of medicine at New York University, New York, and lecturer in moral philosophy and bioethics at the Universities of Rome and Turin, Italy. From 2004 to 2006 she was of head of the Teaching Research & Development Department of the European School of Oncology in Milano, Italy. She has published extensively in the fields of medical oncology and bioethics, focusing on the patient-doctor relationship, truth telling and cultural competence, ethical and social implications of genetic testing for cancer predispositions, ethics of clinical trials in the elderly and disclosure of medical errors in oncology.




Rebecca Walters, MS, LMHC LCAT TEP Rebecca Walters, MS, LMHC, LCAT, TEP, has been the director of the Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute since 1989. With close to thirty five years of experience using psychodrama and experiential methods, she was the Director of Child and Adolescent Psychodrama Services at Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital, Katonah, NY. She has brought her well received training seminars on the use of action methods to conferences and training institutes throughout the US and abroad and is known for her warmth, sensitivity, humor, and ability to create a safe environment in which students can learn and practice new skills and roles.

Contact I*CARE

The I*CARE Web site staff are interested in your suggestions. Please contact us to suggest specific educational resources that you would like us to consider including on our Web site.

Web Site and Program Information

Cathy Kirkwood, M.P.H.
Project Director - Faculty & Academic Development
Program for Interpersonal Communication And Relationship Enhancement

The University of Texas
MD Anderson Cancer Center
P.O. Box 301407-Unit 1726,
Houston, TX 77230-1407
Ph: 713-792-4697 Fax: 713-794-4236
E-Mail: icare@mdanderson.org

Awards and Honors

2012 - Distinguished Teaching Professor – Walter F. Baile, M.D. – in recognition of outstanding contributions to education

Walter Baile, M.D.¸ Director and Cathy Kirkwood, MPH, Project Director are the 2012 John P. McGovern Award recipients. The award is given by the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) to recognize persons who have demonstrated excellence in biomedical communication and who have made significant contributions to the field, particularly having a national or international impact.

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies to the  HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.


Healthlinks Select Site  We have been recognized as a Healthlinks Select Site

I*CARE has been accepted to the ACGME Outcome Project Web site. RSVP - Recognize Success Via imPlementation is a showcase for works-in-progress of activities that may be used to teach and assess the general competencies.

We were awarded a FREDDIE Award for 2005 by the International Health and Medical Media Awards

Walter F. Baile, M.D., is the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare's 2010 Lynn Payer Award recipient for Outstanding Contributions to the Literature on the Theory, Practice and Teaching of Effective Health Care Communication and Related Skills.

I*CARE was awarded three Telly Awards, two bronze in the categories of “Education” and “Training” and the highest Silver award for the “Crossroads” module in May, 2010.

John P. McGovern Award for Excellence in Biomedical Communication