LMSDr "Excellence in Care Award"
Dr. David C. Harmon – June 6th 2008
Beth and I are honored to be able to give this award to Dr. Harmon. This award is special because the nomination and selection process is based solely on patient input. So, in order to win you have to be doing something extraordinary to separate yourself from the hundreds of Sarcoma experts across the country!
There are well over 800 Leiomyosarcoma Patients across the country and the globe, which are aware of this award and could nominate a physician or RN to receive this award.
The nominees this year included Sarcoma Doctors and Nurses from several prestigious institutions;
- H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa, FL
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY, NY
- University of California San Francisco – Thoracic Surgery
- Cedar-Sinai Cancer Center in LA, CA
Last Years winner was Dr. Gina D'Amato from H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center.
After Dr. D'Amato received this recognition, she left Moffit to become director of the Sarcoma clinic at Emory in Atlanta.
Please don't get any ideas David!
Seriously, I think it takes a special person to be an oncologist dealing with a rare cancer like Sarcoma that has so few effective treatment options today.
However, it takes an even better person to separate themselves from the Oncologists around the country dealing with this disease on a daily basis with the compassion and willingness to accept new ideas that will one day make Sarcoma a chronic illness instead of a threat to survival.
Here are some of the key points in our nomination letter to the Board of the LMS Direct Research Foundation who sponsors this award each year.
Dr. David Harmon is the lead medical oncologist on the Sarcoma team at MGH and has been a pleasure to work with. He is willing to think outside the box and values patient input into the decision making process for care.
Beth had a difficult case to deal with when first diagnosed and Dr. Harmon was the only oncologist we met after visits to both DFCI and MSKCC who was willing to refer Beth for resection of the initial botched hysterectomy to clean up margins and take Beth's ovaries to reduce hormonal stimulation of what could be remaining. He then was willing to take a wait and watch approach, which lead to 1 year of NED for Beth.
When Beth did have a recurrence showing a couple of potential mets, again Dr. Harmon was quick to refer Beth to Dr. Fuller for the abdominal surgery which ended up removing 7 mets in multiple locations.
With my prodding Dr. Harmon prescribed Femara despite Beth's weakly Er/Pr positive tumor samples and held off on chemo, which was the primary choice right after resection. Beth enjoyed another 9 months of NED until her latest recurrence in January of this year.
David also is active in the SARC and CTOS communities to keep abreast of the latest treatment options and participates in multiple institution studies on new treatment options.
Finally, Dr. Harmon is an advocate for raising money to fund Sarcoma research and awareness.
· He attends the annual fund raiser for the Jennifer Hunter Yates Sarcoma Foundation hosted by her family (Jennifer was his patient)
· Walked with us in Boston for the Team Sarcoma awareness day on a Saturday this summer.
· He runs the Boston marathon each year to raise money for children's cancer research.
· He participates with the rest of the MGH Sarcoma team in the annual Meet the Sarcoma Experts educational seminar at MGH, in Boston, which is attended by patients from all over New England.
A few words About LMSdr who sponsors this award each year.
The LMSarcoma Direct Research Foundation was created by a Leiomyosarcoma survivor to help fund research that will one day lead to a cure for Leiomyosarcoma.
Suzanne Kurtz and her husband have the same drive and initiative as the Hunter-Yates family does; the only difference is they have a laser focus on one subtype of Sarcoma, LMS.
The board members are Leiomyosarcoma patients, caregivers, and friends from across the U.S. including Okla., CA, AZ, PA, NJ and ALASKA
The Scientific Advisory Board is made up of MD's and PhD's from the Netherlands, CA, Canada and Ohio. Two on the advisory board are also patients actively fighting the disease and two are caregivers to LMS patients.
In two short years they have made grants of over $115,000 to help fund a DNA microarray study at Stanford (Dr. Matt van de Rijn) an mRNA study at NYU (Dr. Eva Hernando) in conjunction with the Liddy Shriver Foundation. We hope that MGH will soon participate in both of these efforts.
An institution like MGH is built on the quality of people it retains and without Dr. Harmon we would likely not be at MGH.
Dr. Harmon has proven he is willing to take the extra steps to provide excellence in care and clinical benefit to his patients. This means:
- Listening to new ideas (I give more than he cares to hear sometimes I'm sure)
- A willingness to push boundaries by trying cutting edge treatments and methods when the clinical evidence is not always crystal clear.
- And most importantly acting with compassion towards his patients at all times.
I'm now going to turn this over to Beth, who will give some more personal thoughts on why Dr. Harmon is deserving of this award.
THOUGHTS ON DR. HARMON
We first met Dr. Harmon over two years ago after my devastating diagnosis of Leiomyosarcoma. We were made aware of him through a mutual friend and they strongly suggested we make an appointment at MGH's sarcoma center. We met with Dr. Harmon after seeking the advice of two other major sarcoma centers, Dana Farber, and Sloan-Kettering, neither of which seemed to be a good fit. This was all after being told, by my local GYN, that I had LMS, there was no treatment, that "miracles do happen" and I should "just go home and be with my four children". She pretty much told me to go home and wait to die. Well, fortunately, that is not the path that my husband and I have chosen. From that first appointment with Dr. Harmon, I knew that this was the doctor that I wanted to work with to slay the LMS dragon.
Dr. Harmon has always made me feel like there was some hope. I have struggled to put into words how I feel when doctor Harmon walks through the door, especially when there are test results to be discussed. Then, I recently found a quote in the newspaper and it exactly described how I feel. The article quotes, "I was just bathed in this general feeling that whatever happened, however it turned out, "I'd be OK. I don't know where it came from but it was hope, not fear." Well, when I read that article, I knew THAT was how I feel about my visits with Dr. Harmon. But the difference is that I do know where it comes from. That feeling of calm comes from Dr. Harmon. We have discussed many treatment options and always have a plan in place for the next step, should we need it. He is willing to "think outside the box" which is very important to an LMS patient. As you all know, LMS is so rare that there is not a lot of protocol in place. As a matter of fact, we decided that it might be a good idea to have chemo assay testing done on my latest tumors. I had laparoscopic surgery to remove three tumors for testing. The tests came back and reported that Navelbine showed the best response in the lab. So, because Navelbine seemed like a good drug to start with, with little side effects, that is what we did. Well, I am happy to say that my latest CT scans showed an "overall decrease in size of nodules". Not having this testing done, and not "thinking outside the box" we probably would have chosen a more toxic chemotherapy drug and might not have had the desired response that I have received so far with Navelbine.
Another way that Dr. Harmon shows that he cares for his patients is his involvement in the Jennifer Hunter Yates Sarcoma Foundation. My husband and I have become active participates in this walk for the last two years. It is very inspiring to me to see how much Dr. Harmon cares for the Hunter-Yates family and it says a lot about the type of doctor he is to all of his patients. We brought about 65 close friends and family with us to the walk this year. The walk had a profound impact on each and every one of them. They were all so impressed that MY doctor was there and were inspired by his dedication to his patients and to the walk. They all now have a better understanding of what I am going through. They came back from the walk with a much better understanding of Sarcoma and Dr. Harmon's speech made a lasting impression on all of them.
Dr. Harmon, is not just a doctor at this point, he is a friend. I am honored to be one of his patients and I am very proud that he has received the "Excellence in Care" award this year from the LMS Direct Research Foundation.
FROM DR. HARMON
Dear LMSdr, Mr. Kurtz et al.,
I want to thank you all for the very great honor that Beth and Bruce
MacDonald just gave to me through your generosity. The Excellence in Care Award
celebrates a partnership that we have forged to fight LMS. The beautiful
plaque you have made will show friends, family, colleagues, and other patient
families that we work as a team. I will draw encouragment from this reminder
that my efforts are valued. More than that, I will be reminded to appreciate
the care and contributions of friends and families to bring urgently needed
cures into being ASAP. By supporting research, you inspire and enable my new
colleague, Dr. Choy, and me to investigate the biology of LMS, and to initiate
more clinical trials.
Thank you so much!
David Harmon, MD