Since I belong to two national patient advocate groups, I find it’s common for my advocate colleagues to compare notes about how we got into our line of work when we get together online or on the phone. It seems that many of us took long, meandering paths to where we are today and the experiences we collected along the way greatly assist in helping our clients on their own journeys in the world of health care.
Coming from a non-medical video production background, I was very surprised that I had adapted so well to medical educational production at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston. Then, just when I felt that I had hit my stride on feeling comfortable at handling any and all subjects about cancer—my life took another twist. The University of Texas system encompasses not only colleges throughout the state, but also M.D. Anderson Cancer Center as well as several medical schools, including UT-Health Science Center-Houston. A decision was made to merge the M.D. Anderson video group where I worked with the other TV production group at the UT medical school. Our job duties were also shuffled and I found myself in an entirely different part of the medical universe. Now, instead of the measured pace of an oncology center, I would have to adjust to the more hectic world of the med school and the ER as well as producing a weekly, syndicated TV health program.
These shows featured the late, great Dr. Red Duke, a famous Houston trauma surgeon. For those readers who aren’t familiar with Dr. Red Duke or his TV show, he was easily recognizable by his signature auburn hair, large mustache, cowboy hat and Texas drawl. People loved his folksy manner and especially his ability to take complex medical information and turn it into something easily understandable for the average viewer—this became the next step in my education as a patient advocate. After all, the fear that goes with being confronted with a complicated medical diagnosis is almost as devastating as the diagnosis itself. By being down-to-earth and friendly as Dr. Duke was on his TV show, he made the intimidating world of the Texas Medical Center much less frightening.
In addition, my new office was located in the UT-Houston med school which was full of every kind of medical specialist and we were able to do stories about any and every type of diagnosis and treatment. We also did a great many shows about how to avoid coming to the ER—safety measures as well as educating our viewer about what to do in case of an emergency. Once again, I found that education was the answer—helping people understand complex medical issues was a huge step towards lessening the anxiety they might feel confronting a health problem.
Yet, another change was blowing in the wind and my life would take another turn on my way to becoming a patient advocate. Join me next time how the patient advocate became the patient.