Corrine Zarwan, MD, has an office full of photos. Pictures of family and loved ones and places she’s traveled line her walls and shelves. One image differs from the rest: it’s of clocks — taken by a patient and given to Dr.Zarwan as a gift.
“She said it’s because I gave her the gift of time,” says Zarwan, Director of the Women’s Cancer Program at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center and Associate Director and Clinical Research Director of the Lahey Health Cancer Institute. The patient is battling breast cancer, but thanks to treatment is feeling well enough to go back to school, where she’s enrolled in a photography class.
The photo means a lot to Dr.Zarwan, as does the relationship she’s built with the patient who gave it to her. It’s being able to form relationships like these that drew Dr.Zarwan to oncology.
“When you get to see patients who are in follow-up and doing well, you see those long-term, meaningful relationships you have formed where you’ve guided someone through a really difficult time and helped them through their treatment,” says Zarwan.
Building relationships is at the center of Dr.Zarwan’s approach to patient care, and also forms the foundation of the Lahey Health Cancer Institute.
“The Institute’s role is to build bridges across all of Lahey Health to increase collaboration, improve efficiencies and standardize practices,” Zarwan says. Her role is to work with all the Lahey hospitals to find ways to collaborate, work together and to improve the patient experience.“
The goal is for patients to get the best care regardless of their location,” she says. “We want the care to be standardized and we want really good communication and collaboration across the system so patients can access more opportunities for research and clinical trials.” Clinical trials provide patients an opportunity to take part in more innovative, involved treatments if appropriate.
Just as solid communication and collaboration is essential between care-team members, they’re just as important between the team and the patient. Zarwan encourages her patients to be as honest and forthcoming as possible — it’s what helps her team better provide them with answers, options and resources.
“I think there’s a fear of the unknown in the beginning for patients,” she says. “They have so many questions about what a cancer diagnosis is going to mean for them, so I want patients to share with me some of the things they may be more specifically concerned about. It’s about bonding as much as you can with patients so that you can offer them all the tools that they need.”