A Memorable Visit: Mentoring an IDEA Recipient Proves Meaningful for All Involved

A Memorable Visit: Mentoring an IDEA Recipient Proves Meaningful for All Involved

Edward Paul Balaban, DO, FACP, FASCO

Sep 23, 2013

It has been a couple of weeks since our visitor has left, but it remains a visit that should be shared. The International Development and Education Award (IDEA), offered by the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO, provided the funding for Dr. Ary Darwish to spend time here recently at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Dr. Darwish is a medical oncologist from Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. I, along with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, functioned as his mentors. His visit was incorporated with a Best of ASCO session held earlier in Boston. Following that meeting, he spent his remaining time in Pittsburgh.

With the generous help of friends and colleagues, an agenda was crafted that blended together an equal exposure of oncology care in the United States from both the community and academic settings. Hospital rounds were made, clinics and conferences were attended, and questions of so many unselfish individuals were asked. He spent time with radiation oncologists, pharmacists, nurses, and dieticians. He met general surgeons, internists, and administrators. It was evident that Ary was intrigued with the technology in the hospital, and I suspect was equally impressed by the collegiality of all involved.

Ary lived that week with me and my wife. We learned more from Dr. Darwish than he could have ever learned from his experience in our hospitals and clinics. He taught us about life in Iraq. He taught me about medical care in his country. He reinforced what I suspect many of us realize. It is clear that so many of the health care dictums that we have adopted in the U.S. are just not applicable in his country. He would confirm that many of our decisions based on so many technologic techniques are invariably available by just common sense.

Beyond medicine, though, Ary taught us about his life in Iraq. He fielded far more questions from us than he could have ever asked. I briefly met his wife and children by Skype. Evenings were spent just talking and sharing thoughts. In summary, we learned that although we may be separated by culture, we remain alike in our everyday activities, concerns, and goals.

This experience made possible by the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO was and continues to be deeply appreciated by all. We should all have visitors like this. Dr. Darwish and I remain in contact.


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