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Treating the Whole Patient

Treating the Whole Patient

John Galvin, Victoria Maurer and Julian Schink Receive Compassionate Care Awards

Julian Schink, MD, has always believed that caring for women with cancer means much more than providing clinical treatment. His philosophy is embodied in the Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care, which Schink helped develop and design. The center is not only a place where women receive treatment, but where they also have access to services such as counseling, physical rehabilitation and a “healing boutique” for wig and prosthesis fittings.

“You have to treat the whole patient,” says Schink, director of gynecologic oncology for the Lurie Cancer Center. “That’s what puts it all in context–the environment that the patient lives in, their values, their hopes and dreams and how this treatment fits into their lives.”

Schink recognizes the impact that a cancer diagnosis can have on a woman’s family. “I respect the fact that women really are the center of the family in many or in most families. And if mom’s sick, the entire family is sick,” he says. “So I wanted to create an environment where we recognize that, and could build a support team around that, and have an adequate space for our support staff to work. We made that a priority.”

Because of Schink’s longtime commitment to women’s cancer care, he was recently honored by the Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital with the Compassionate Care Award, along with two other Lurie Cancer Center caregivers Vicki Maurer, RN, BSN, OCN, and John Galvin, MD. Each year, Compassionate Care Awards are presented to a physician on the medical staff, a fellow or medical resident and a nurse or allied health professional who serve as role models for the compassionate care of patients at the Lurie Cancer Center.

Schink, who has been with Northwestern since 2004, works with patients to develop plans of care that are realistic and meet their needs. “What they need is as much time as I can give them safely. And they need an accurate perspective on what the world holds for them,” he says. “They have to have an appreciation for the fact that time for them is finite. If they don’t appreciate that, they’re going to leave some really important step undone.”

As well as being a practicing physician, Schink is involved in clinical research. “If you look at my research, it’s really about patient care, designing better ways to treat or care for cancer patients,” he says. To Schink, compassionate care is really simple. “Compassion in my mind is not a recipe. But there are prerequisites to compassion. Number one, and this is easy, but it’s one that physicians have the least of, and that’s time. Number two, you have to listen. Number three, you can’t judge people’s choices. If you keep that rule set it place, I think you’re going to be compassionate.”

Regardless of the clinical outcome, Schink is concerned that his patients feel a sense of comfort. “I love seeing them do well and find that very rewarding,” he says. “For those who are not doing well I find it important to help them through those difficult times because I have enough experience helping people get through rough times that I think I can make that passage more comfortable.”

(Last updated on May 1, 2013 )