COMPASSION IS WHAT SUSTAINS ME: CAROL COTTRILL

It seems so fitting that Carol Cottrill’s medical specialty is the hearts of children - both physical and emotional. Her career path began when her 4th child was born with congenital heart disease.  Growing up on a family farm, she learned to balance compassion and necessity, a skill she would use in caring for her daughter and later during 18 years as medical director of UK’s pediatric ICU. Her daughter’s illness introduced her to wonderfully compassionate doctors and nurses who….

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FRIEND TO THOSE WHO ARE AILING: DANESH MAZLOOMDOOST, MD

Danesh Mazloomdoost, MD has inherited a tradition reflected in his name itself. In his family’s native Iran, Mazloomdoost means “friend to those who are ailing.” His life in medicine seems almost preordained by his family history. His father (a U.S. trained anesthesiologist who specialized in pain management) and mother (who trained in anesthesiology in Iran and retrained in psychiatry in the U.S.) built their practice around a comprehensive mind-body approach to pain management, long before such….

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SUSTAINING AN ALTRUISTIC SPIRIT: TERRY BARRETT

Terry Barrett is Chief of the Gastroenterology Division of the Department of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine. He came to Lexington in 2013 from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago.  Becoming a Doctor.   Although there were no doctors in his family, he always felt a parental expectation of excellence and high achievement. He had a poor impression of the competitive nature of pre-medical education he witnessed among his peers.

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able to articulate for them what’s going on truthfully, show them we have a plan and show them we care, even if that plan is palliative care at the end of life. There is great fulfillment in the doctor-patient relationship in oncology. You put yourself out there. It’s painful to lose people you care about but you gain so much. There is a spiritual quality to this work. And I know how I would want to be treated if I ever have the diagnosis of cancer. I tell patients I care about them. I tell them I love them. I also try to understand what their fears are. Most people are more afraid of the suffering than they are of dying- or afraid of what their family is having to go through. I try to keep hope alive- either hope of a cure or hope of living until a special event or hope of a good death.”


“I have always felt that it was my calling to walk the path with each patient. I want to be there for them, even to the point of death if necessary, and to be honest during our relationship so they know they can trust me. I want to support them and provide the best treatment and care as long as they need me.”


Have you ever felt burned out?

“Burnout is a real challenge for all of us in oncology. I probably suffer chronic burnout like most oncologists. If the people I serve weren’t so heroic, it would be so much more difficult. But they are facing the challenges of their lives and being so brave and that motivates me. My stressors are small compared to what they are going through.”


What are your go-to stress relievers?

“Time with my family. My husband Mike is my rock and my sons, John and Henry, are the greatest achievements of my life. I have hobbies I love- walks, cooking, travel, reading and genealogy. I know my limits and I try not to go over those limits. But vacations always give me time to recharge.”


What does it mean to you to be a physician?

“It is a complete honor to share such a poignant and intimate time with people who are facing cancer. I am always humbled by how much these brave people give to me. It is a gift to be involved with people at this point in their lives and to be able to help them. Being an oncologist can be really hard, but I have been enriched so much by those around me. The science is also beginning to unlock the secrets of why cancer happens, so I feel I am at the edge of the time when we cure cancer. That is really exciting.” 


Describe your personal mission, what makes you tick and inspires you.

“Walking the path with those suffering from cancer, being truthful with them and giving them my very best effort in treating their cancer - creatively and compassionately. I try to be compassionate but I also want to be the hardest worker in the building. Work ethic is really important to me. I really enjoy putting in time to make a good product, whether it’s a protocol, a grant, creating training materials or checking patient test results. I’m proud of my work ethic but in the end, if I can’t relate to the patient, I am not being a good doctor. I always want to be real with the patient, listen to their priorities and give 110%.  I also really want to do my very best. Not compared to others but just based in my own internal expectations.”


How can we help our colleagues, residents and students navigate these stressful times in medicine and society?

“I think the next generation has a better handle on work-life balance. They get more sleep. Their decision-making and thought clarity benefit from this balance. Nevertheless, I still believe that the long hours and staying up late- some of the very things that contribute to burnout- are critical to understanding the patient and being thorough. I balance the burnout with the positive reinforcement I get from patients and staff and realize this is a commitment I’ve made to this profession. It’s not just a job I clock in and out of. I respect people that have better work-life balance than I do and I’m grateful my family loves me even with my long hours. But I don’t have a better solution for burnout than my professional commitment- something I modeled from my father.”


“Oncology can be stressful but it can also be very enriching. You have to look for those moments where you’re being given a gift from the patient and allow that to sustain you.  You walk into a room and see a person you’ve never met before. They tell you intimate details of their lives, you examine their body, you learn where their mind and heart are and how they are going to mobilize the courage to cope with a crisis and you get all of that without question. They just accept that relationship. It has always seemed like a miracle to me. It’s very humbling. It makes me glad to be able to get up in the morning, put both feet on the floor, be able to walk and be able to do normal things like swallow water. Some of my patients can’t do any of those things. I just am grateful. You also have to not be afraid to give to others even when you know it could be painful. Losing the patient can be heartbreaking but being in a relationship with them on their path can also be amazingly profound and fulfilling in a way that I never expected when I began in oncology. So I would say don’t be afraid to give of yourself because you will likely receive more than you expected and that will sustain you.”


Working with Susanne Arnold.

Rebecca Heichelbech RN has been Susanne’s clinic nurse for three years and says “I can’t imagine doing any other job. She’s probably my best friend. Nurses have a sisterhood and she’s definitely part of that sisterhood. She’s amazing. I call her Dr. Arnold even though she asks me to call her Susanne. She jokes and calls me Nurse Heichelbech. When our patients and their children are hungry from long travel and waiting, she gets them food. She can be reached about her patients essentially 24/7.”  


Patty Hughes DNP is UK HealthCare assistant chief nursing executive and says “The thing that stands out most is her genuine concern and compassion not just for the patients she treats but for the people she works with. She wants the work environment to be a positive one that people enjoy being in. She is an advocate for the nursing staff whenever she can fill that role.”


Reema Patel MD worked with Susanne as an oncology fellow 2 years ago and is now a colleague. She says “Dr. Arnold is a mentor and inspiration who brings not only state of the art care to patients but also immense compassion and understanding.  If I am half the oncologist and human being that she is, I will consider myself successful”


Joseph Valentino MD, otolaryngologist and UK head and neck surgeon says, “You could not have picked a finer physician than Dr. Arnold. She is a profile in compassion.  She has always had her patients as the central focus of her attention.  She goes well beyond expectations to be sure they get the best care possible.  Health care for cancer patients in and of itself is highly complex.  Treating patients in this financially challenged state of Kentucky involves working through overly complex, underfunded, healthcare systems and broken social systems. Susanne Arnold has dedicated her life to providing the highest quality of cancer care for her patients. Her high standards require extensive extra efforts to hurdle impediments to the delivery of that care.”


Lowell Anthony MD is chief of medical oncology at Markey and says, “Dr. Arnold is the ‘physician’s physician’.  She is a role model for us all as she sets a high standard.  Her ability to multi-task, bring clarity to a complex problem and calm those who are anxious, is phenomenal.  Dr. Arnold not only impacts the lives of those around her, but also shapes how research is conducted.”  


When you and I receive our own grim diagnosis, I hope we have a physician like Susanne Arnold walk that path with us.

Susanne Arnold MD is a medical oncologist at UK’s Markey Cancer Center. Growing up, her father was a well known Alzheimer’s researcher, neurologist, neuropathologist and Director of the Sanders Brown Center on Aging for over 25 years – William Markesbery. She says “I identified with his calling. He was the complete package. I’ve always aspired to be like my Dad. He never stopped working. I get my work ethic from him. As 7th and 8th generation Kentuckians, we were both committed to serving the people of Kentucky to the best of our ability.”


Deciding to be a doctor

“My undergraduate major at Brown University was educational philosophy but I took science classes in case I later decided to go into medicine. After college, I took 3 years off to examine my motivations. I was a bartender in Lexington and at Keeneland. Strangely enough, bartending is really good training for being a doctor. You hear peoples’ problems- including addiction. You learn how to listen and how to deal with every kind of person. In the end, I decided that I was meant to be a physician.”


“Once I got into medical school, I used my married name so I could fly under the radar and not be given special treatment because of who my father was. It was funny though to have him teach my neuropathology course.”

BY JOHN A. PATTERSON MD, MSPH, FAAFP

Why oncology?

“In medical school and my internal medicine residency I was drawn to the field of oncology. It has the wonderful fusion of the most cutting edge science and the ability to care for people going through something very serious. I didn’t want to shy away from difficult situations and the possibility of death. I wanted to be there and to provide hope whenever possible.”


“I really knew I wanted to be an oncologist in my 3rd year of medical school. My senior resident, Scott Pierce, had to give a terminal diagnosis to a patient at the bedside. He did it in such a grace-filled and kind way, while also being very truthful. That was the turning point for me. I thought ‘this is my area- this is where I need to be. I want to be sitting at the bedside and helping these people deal with and cope with a terminal diagnosis if necessary.’ I could see my personality fitting really well with that niche of medicine. It just felt right.”


Especially, why oncology knowing many of your patients will die-many of them young?

“I feel like I have a dual role- to provide the very best science and medical treatment but also to provide a relationship with the patient. I don’t think I could do science without the bedside part. I don’t like that they have cancer but I like being

JOHN A. PATTERSON MD, MSPH, FAAFP

Dr Patterson chairs the Lexington Medical

Senator Alvarado earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Loma Linda University (California) in 1990, and then went on to receive his Doctorate in Medicine in 1994. He completed his medical residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Kentucky in 1998. Society's Physician Wellness Commission and is certified in Physician Coaching. He is on the family practice faculty UK College of Medicine and teaches nationally for Saybrook School of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, DC). After 30 years in private family practice in Irvine KY, he now operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative mind-body medicine consultations specializing in mindfulness-based approaches to stress-related chronic conditions and burnout prevention for helping professionals. He can be reached through his website at www.mindbodystudio.org