Creating an umbrella of care
Patients in cancer treatment often have other health issues that can affect treatment and/or quality of life. Over the past 25 years, MD Anderson has added myriad services to handle these conditions while providing quality care for patients.
While MD Anderson is a cancer center with hundreds of oncology experts, the body can have other health issues: hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, to name a few.
The goal of General Internal Medicine at MD Anderson is to provide an umbrella of care for these other concerns, known as comorbidities.
As Carmen Escalante, M.D., points out, “When cancer patients present with these various conditions, our team of general internists is there.”
When she joined MD Anderson in 1988, the concept of having general internists in a cancer center was new. She was only the second one hired. Today, as professor and chair of the department, she oversees a faculty of 33, with more coming.
While these doctors practice general medicine, they also have sub-specialties. They are nephrologists, rheumatologists, hospitalists, geriatricians and the list goes on.
“We offer services from seeing patients with a suspicion of cancer to cancer patients with fatigue or needing acute inpatient care,” she says. “We’re involved with patients at all stages of disease and interface with physicians across the institution, addressing comorbidities that need managing. We can do this because as general internists, we have the knowledge to handle diverse health issues.”
Research and education integral
“We also conduct research that’s patient-centered and helps patients and doctors make decisions about what treatments may work best for individual patients,” says Maria Suarez-Almazor, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the department. “We take into account the potential benefits and harms of interventions, while considering the patients’ preferences.
“Our second goal is to train young investigators and physicians on how to apply and develop methods for research that take into account what matters most to patients, and that are robust and credible.”
A snapshot of MD Anderson internists
Escalante emphasizes that the center has a long-standing reputation for successful clinical programs, offering quality care to cancer patients. It has also rapidly established productive and credible departmental research while building a legacy that strives for excellence.
On the following pages, learn about a few of the services offered in General Internal Medicine: