And now, another update from our Kiwanis Doernbecher Board of Directors!

Early in each new year, the Kiwanis Doernbecher Children’s Cancer Program Board of Directors gets to attend an event called “Meet The Fellows.” It’s our first opportunity to speak with the two newest Fellows and ask questions to staff and second- and third-year Fellows.

This time around I had a few questions for Dr. Shereck, the Director of the Fellowship Program. As editor of this newsletter I come across stories of patients that I think you readers would be interested in, which validate support of Doernbecher and the Fellowship Program. Many of these stories do not mention that Fellows are involved in the patient’s treatment. This caused me to wonder if there actually are pediatric cancer patients at Doernbecher that do not benefit from the care of one or more of our Fellows. If so, would it be unfair of me to share the stories as reasons to support the Fellowship Program? So, here are my questions and Dr. Shereck’s answers.

I asked first, is it true that the Fellows check in all pediatric hematology/oncology patients? The answer was yes. But then I asked “It seems like we see some cases in which a Fellow is assigned to one patient and other cases in which a patient sees lots of Fellows. Can you explain why or how this happens?” 

Dr. Shereck replied: “When a patient is admitted to our pediatric hematology/oncology unit at Doernbecher, they are always greeted by a Fellow. The Fellows run our inpatient unit, and so any patient that is ever admitted to our unit, will have been cared for by a Fellow. What does it mean to run the unit? The Fellow runs rounds – hearing from the residents, medical students, nurse practitioners about what is going on with the patients and developing a management plan for that day. The Fellow works up any new patient to figure out the diagnosis, they then tell that new diagnosis to the patient and their family and develop the treatment plan which they also communicate to the patients and families. Fellows also perform many of the procedures that need to happen on the inpatient unit – such as bone marrow biopsies and lumbar punctures. So, any pediatric hematology/oncology patient that has been admitted to Doernbecher will have been cared for by a Fellow.
All the Fellows also have a weekly continuity clinic. In this clinic, they will see their primary patients. These are the 10-12 patients they have decided that they want to be responsible for – not only on the inpatient ward – but for the entirety of their treatment. So, in the clinic, they see their patients weekly, write all their chemotherapy, perform all the procedures. If the patient should relapse, the Fellow develops the new treatment plan. The patients and families really do see the Fellows as their oncologist and become very connected to them and trust their opinion and guidance.”

Based on this answer, I am satisfied that when I distribute a story about a pediatric hematology/oncology patient, Kiwanis Doernbecher Children’s Cancer Program’s support of the Fellowship Program is validated, and your support of the Fellowship Program through KDCCP is also validated. The care the kids and families receive at Doernbecher is second to none and it all starts with the Fellows. 

I had another question for Dr. Shereck. It has to do with the word “Advocacy” which has crept into the lexicon of the doctors and Fellows. They want to end children’s cancers and blood disorders through Education, Treatment, Research and Advocacy. I wanted to know, when Dr. Shereck uses the term, what does it mean? What activities are involved in advocacy?

“Advocacy can mean a lot of things. It could be like Patrick DeMartino’s work in working with Oregon Medicaid to ensure that they are going to pay for our treatments. It could be like Eneida Nemecek working with state legislators to ensure that Sickle Cell is added as an approved indication for bone marrow transplant. It can be like me going to Salem every year on Pediatric Day to meet with state legislators to advocate on different legislation ranging from gun control to vaccine mandates to prohibiting vaping (which can lead to cancer) in kids. It can be like Krysta Schlis who volunteers with Boost Oregon to educate physicians on how to talk to vaccine-hesitant families. The Fellows have also been working to increase resources for our families that have food scarcity. We all need to learn how to use our voices to speak up to our government on how they can better support our patients and child health in general.”