Communication is the only thing that separates medicine from experiments on rats. Think about it: if there were no communication between doctor and patient, between nurse and patient, nurse and doctor, staff chief, nurse manager, CEO, X-ray specialist, and everybody in between, we’d just be identifying cellular problems and nuking them with drugs and other stuff. Information, the field and discipline of explaining whatever exists, is what sets us apart from that. Without some accessible way to get to what we need to know, hospitals would be scary experimental complexes.
Luckily, that’s not the way things are. Our society has made medicine a personal affair. If you walk into a hospital, especially one in the Penn Medicine system, somebody is going to guide you. They’ll teach you about the problems with your body and try to make them go away.
Cynthia Griffo is one of the wheels that keep that vehicle moving. She’s the Director of Communications and Education at the Abramson Cancer Center. She knows that the best way to do medicine is to keep everybody informed. And these days, there is a lot of information.
Learning as much as you can about your cancer diagnosis gives you the tools you need to make treatment decisions.
Ms. Griffo is big on seminars. Events. Watering holes for the curious with lots of brochures and smiling faces. She coordinates them, gets the word out about them, and makes sure they include good content about the things that people need to know about what’s going on at the Abramson Center. Sometimes it’s not easy to get a handle on everything that goes on here. As she puts it, “All those things that people go through when they’re being treated with cancer are very anxiety-producing. Just because you tell someone something once doesn’t mean that information has been incorporated…so I view what we do at the conferences as supplementing what doctors and nurses and social workers and nutritionists teach patients every day.”
What’s intriguing is why she does it. You can see her explaining it in the video. Cynthia is a cancer nurse by training. She uses her background in clinical oncology to craft educational experiences that she knows will be effective. Nurses know how to talk to patients. It probably takes a damn good nurse to do her job. She knows that when a person has cancer, it can be a weak, desperate, confusing time. She knows that patients sometimes feel that they have lost control over themselves, that they feel “like pawns to something inside them.” So she got started with her current gig to give patients something that she knows they need more of—power.
“We think that knowledge is power,” she told me. “If we give them the tools that they need, they’ll be able to make the decisions that they need to and take the actions that they need to.”
Power to the patients: the battle cry of the Information Revolution. The next time somebody hands you a brochure about the services at the Abramson Center, take it. You’ll learn something.