At the Foundation of Patient Care

At the Foundation of Patient Care

Heather Marie Hylton, PA-C

Jun 02, 2013
I admit to being an aficionado of quotes, and I am particularly fond of some quotes I have heard at the Annual Meeting regarding patient-centered care.

Much to my delight, during his talk on the role of obesity and cancer treatment at the pre-Annual Meeting Seminar for advanced practice providers, Dr. Lewis Foxhall included a number of quotations attributed to Hippocrates.  Although medicine has evolved much since the time of Hippocrates, his wisdom prevails, and his fundamental principles regarding caring for patients remain at the core of what we do today.  The expression, “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has” is attributed to Hippocrates, and I agree with Dr. Foxhall that the foundation of patient-centered care was laid well before our time.

Even in relatively recent history, the concept of patient-centered care remains prominent. In the Meet the Professor session Relating to Patients on a Humanistic or Spiritual Level, Dr. Jimmie Holland shared a 1927 JAMA article by Dr. Francis Peabody.  I was moved by what she shared and accessed the article to read further.  I found this to be a wonderful historical article and particularly enjoyed the following excerpt from the last section of the piece: 

There are moments, of course, in cases of serious illness when you will think solely of the disease and its treatment; but when the corner is turned and the immediate crisis is passed, you must give your attention to the patient.  Disease in man is never exactly the same as disease in an experimental animal, for in man the disease at once affects and is affected by what we call the emotional life.  Thus, the physician who attempts to take care of a patient while he neglects this factor is as unscientific as the investigator who neglects to control all the conditions that may affect his experiment.  The good physician knows his patients through and through, and his knowledge is bought dearly.  Time, sympathy and understanding must be lavishly dispensed, but the reward is to be found in that personal bond which forms the greatest satisfaction of the practice of medicine.  One of the essential qualities of the clinician is interest in humanity, for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.

Although we can easily become caught up in our sometimes frenetic daily work flow, making it difficult to relate to our patients in the way we would like to, it is an essential part of our practice.  Perhaps Dr. Holland and Sheldon Lewis sum up the importance of relating to our patients best in their book The Human Side of Cancer when they say:

Every person brings unique characteristics to dealing with illness: a particular personality, a set of beliefs and values, a way of looking at the world.  The goal is to take these qualities into consideration and make sure that they work in favor of the person at each point along the cancer journey.

I’ll end with another quote attributed to Hippocrates that resonates with me as a provider who cares for patients with cancer:

Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.

I welcome you to share your favorite quotes...


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Mark Allen O'Rourke, MD

Jun, 03 2013 8:55 AM

Two excellent quotes that remind me or the need for the kind of skills taught by Drs. Dizon, Politi, and Back in their educational session on professionalism and communication. I see this kind of prefessionalism as a need as critical as all of the science being presented at this ASCO meeting.  Your article moves us in the right direction.  Thank you.

Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP

Jun, 03 2013 7:16 PM

Wonderful post. And Thanks Mark, for the nice complement about our session on The Power Of Words. Here is a quote I just came across:

"Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters. Awful proceeds from the same root word as awesome. Terrify and terrific. Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation."
Alan Cohen


Heather Marie Hylton, PA-C

Jun, 03 2013 9:08 PM

Thank you, Don and Mark, for sharing your thoughts.

Mark, I could not agree more and appreciate the growing recognition of the importance of communication, and I thought that the education session on Communicating Cancer was excellent and very timely. The lively discussion that followed was insightful, especially as patient advocates also shared their perspective. 

Don, thank you for sharing this quote; it really does stop to make you think about how even through the worst experiences, there can always be hope.

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