When third year medical students at the Emory University School of Medicine go to class in the Glenn Building at Grady Hospital on May 19th, their professor will step aside and let the voice of experience take over. Five ovarian cancer survivors will share their stories of diagnosis and treatment and discuss what it's like to live with a life-threatening, chronic disease.
The new educational program, "Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women's Lives" is a joint effort of the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance, Emory's Gynecology and Obstetrics Department and the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory. It began in January as part of the third-year medical students' six-week gynecology and obstetrics rotation.
"Survivors can teach the students much more about the disease than they can learn from a textbook or a lecture," said Dr. Ira Horowitz, director of Gynecologic Oncology and vice chair, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics. The previous three sessions have been a meaningful experience for the students, he added.
"When survivors speak, you can hear a pin drop in the classroom. The students are riveted. At this point in their lives and course of study, many of them have never met someone with cancer, much less treated a patient with ovarian cancer," he added. "Through this class, students have an opportunity to understand the diagnosis of cancer from the patient's perspective. It's a powerful discussion."
The goal of the program is to educate the medical students about ovarian cancer, the deadliest of gynecologic cancers, so they are better equipped to detect the disease in the early stage when it is most treatable and to understand the importance of a good doctor-patient relationship during treatment.
"Ovarian cancer has a high rate of recurrence and it requires long-term treatment," said Ruthlyn Newell, program director of the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance. "One of the issues we stress is the importance of a close partnership between the doctor and patient and how the doctor-patient relationship extends to the entire family."
The Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance has recruited 15 ovarian cancer survivors who have taken turns participating in the program since January. According to Dr. Horowitz, the program has become an integral part of the six-week Obstetrics and Gynecology rotation for medical students.