Life As An Oncologist
Life As An Oncologist
Joanne Mortimer (Medical Oncologist) gives expert video advice on: What's the best part about being an oncologist?; How do you become a medical oncologist?; What does it take to be a good medical oncologist? and more...
What's the best part about being an oncologist?
To me the most gratifying parts of my job really relate to the patient interactions. And trying to get women through the treatment of their breast cancer first and foremost, since most breast cancer is localized to the breast. Getting through all the initial treatment and coming out on the other end.
What does it take to be a good medical oncologist?
I think a good Medical Oncologist is someone who, first and foremost, understands the disease process and the literature, the studies that have lead to the way that we treat breast cancer, knowing what the expectations of treatments are. Of course another part of being a good Medical Oncologist, a good physician of any sort is actually listening, being able to listen to the patients, understand what they're telling you and figure out what the underlying problems are and how to help manage them.
What type of person makes a good medical oncologist?
You know medical oncology right now is a very scientifically rigorous area. There is so much going on in the field with new drugs and these new drugs are developed because we have a better understanding of the biologies of why cancers grow, why they spread, who gets them. And so intellectually it's a fairly rigorous area right now because there are so many new drugs that are developed to target these sorts of proteins that make cancer cells grow. So I think the type of person who goes into medical oncology is someone who really enjoys constantly learning because the profession changes so fast that you really have to be on top of things.
Are medical oncologists well compensated?
This is a changing area, because in the old days, medical oncologists, who really are compensated very well, used to make money by getting profits from the chemotherapy drugs themselves. So you would give drugs in the office and a certain percentage would come back as profit. Medicare has recently changed a lot of that so that many private practitioners are having difficulty making ends meet right now, because we are not reimbursed like we used to be reimbursed.
Do we need more medical oncologists?
So one of the problems that we've had in figuring out what the work force we need for people is appreciating that this is an aging society. There's so many people who are over the age of sixty five and that is the age that cancer occurs in. And I think in old estimates of how many medical oncologists we needed there was an underestimation of what the impact of the aging of America was going to be. So there are many more patients than medical oncologists, so there is a great need for medical oncologists right now.
Why do you love being an oncologist?
So I deal exclusively with breast cancer and I have to say I love taking care of women with breast cancer. I think women are amazing people with their ability to sort of face a horrible situation, decompensate about it for a brief period of time, rally their forces and go through treatment, continuing on being mothers and spouses and part of the work force, and then sort of being able to feel positive about the horrific experience that they went through and put a spin on it that now they have a greater appreciation of life and their families and so on.