Lung cancer accounts for more deaths among Americans each year than breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined.
In 2007, Lynn Tanoue, MD, took a musical interlude from her hectic schedule as a pulmonary and critical care physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital; thoracic oncology program leader at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven; and a professor at Yale School of Medicine. She founded the Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra, a harmonious group of diverse YSM personnel who, like violinist Dr. Tanoue, welcomed the opportunity to exhibit a non-medical side of themselves. In a similar but more familiar role, as a creative catalyst within her medical realm, Dr. Tanoue has been instrumental in assembling an interdisciplinary team of specialists to launch a program that offers coordinated care for lung cancer patients.
Addressing a Critical Need
"I realized that my patients who had lung cancer required easier access to the range of care that many of them needed," she says. The surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and other specialists were available, but all in different offices, making it stressful for patients to run from one appointment to the next. "I had this image of the patient at the hub of a bicycle wheel, except there was no tire, only spokes," Dr. Tanoue explains. "My goal was to add the tire and make the whole wheel turn while the patients remain in one place, but always as the hub."
Orchestrating Multiple Talents
Dr. Tanoue received a grant to organize a multidisciplinary lung cancer center at Yale-New Haven. The hospital and medical school recruited Frank Detterbeck, MD, a thoracic surgeon who had established that type of program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Together, Dr. Tanoue and Dr. Detterbeck developed what is now known as the Thoracic Oncology Program, which since 2005 has provided the full spectrum of care for patients with lung cancer, esophageal cancer, thymoma, chest wall tumors and other thoracic malignancies. The program includes a tumor board of various specialists who meet once a week to evaluate patients and manage individualized treatment plans. A nurse coordinator serves as the go-between with patients; a social worker consults with them on the range of available community services.
Making Healthy Music
"Today we physically see our lung cancer patients together," Dr. Tanoue says. "We can more easily exchange information, and the patient is right there. We have a well-oiled, congenial, smart group of people." It's kind of like an orchestra.