Dr. Fisher founds nonprofit to address needs of breast cancer survivors and educate professionals who care for them

by Kate Alfano, CMS communications coordinator

Robert Fisher

CMS member Robert Fisher, MD, is a hematologist/oncologist with the Longmont office of Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. In his 25 years as a medical oncologist, he has maintained an interest in patients’ recovery beyond active cancer treatment and, with the rise of cancer survivorship, recognized a need for an online educational library that would provide high-quality educational materials about the medical and psychosocial issues breast cancer survivors face.

That led him to bring together colleagues to found the Pink Ribbon Survivors Network (PRSN) in 2011. He currently serves as its president. The organization provides a robust repository of online resources through its website to aid primary care providers in the transfer of patients; empower breast cancer survivors in self-motivated learning and self-directed care; and create a synergy of ideas between oncology professionals – physicians, nurses and social workers – to benefit their patients.

“At some point in my career, I realized the persons that I would benefit in my medical career were limited to those in my exam room and those in my waiting room about to see me professionally,” Fisher said. “However, given the accessibility and power of the Internet, by creating this educational website, suddenly my reach for the benefit of patient care was extended to anyone and everywhere with Internet access.”

Fisher led the creation and assemblage of the website’s resources, and he continues to volunteer hundreds of hours a year to maintain them. Through his stewardship, more than 1,500 educational articles serve thousands of Colorado patients and reach people across the country and around the world. His patients who have utilized the resources call them “professional, relevant and trustworthy.”

The articles are organized in three separate libraries. The Curriculum for Recovery Library houses online articles in 19 categories for breast cancer survivors. The categories include Accepting New Limitations, Identifying Priorities, Diet/Exercise/Self-Care, Maintaining Family/Married/Partnered Life, Doubt and Hope, and Survivorship When Cancer Recurs, among others.

The Cancer Care Professionals Library brings together clinical literature pertaining to breast cancer survivorship from the professional literature of cancer physicians, nurses and social workers. The Primary Care Providers Library provides a summary of the guidelines for breast cancer patient follow-up and a summary of the medical and psychosocial issues facing breast cancer survivors as they return to the care of their primary health care providers.

“At a time when oncology patients are increasingly being returned to their primary care providers for long-term follow up, the Pink Ribbon Survivors Network’s website provides a unique tool to bridge the knowledge and communication gap between the oncology specialty and primary care in Colorado,” Fisher said. “In addition, we have provided women with breast cancer a comprehensive tool for self-education and recovery from the difficulties of breast cancer therapies.”

PRSN is working on several educational programs built from the online library. The first, a five-session Cancer Survivorship workshop for patients known as “Empower Your Recovery,” is in development with the social work department of Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. The organization plans to make the course instruction manual available online so it can be offered at any location.

“I chose to pursue a career in hematology/oncology to accept the challenge of taking care of patients with potentially life-threatening diseases,” Fisher said. “Many times these illnesses seem destructive and senseless and I want to help patients and their families make sense of these senseless disorders. I think the take-home message from my experience for CMS members would be to play an important role in patient education and providing patient resources. Many of our patients are eager to learn. Help them find high-quality information.”

PRSN will send business-card-sized information cards to practices to hand out to patients upon request. Contact Rob@PinkRibbonSurvivorsNetwork.org to request these cards. For more information about the organization, visit their website: www.PinkRibbonSurvivorsNetwork.org.

Editor’s note: There are several warning signs of professional burnout, including having feelings of being run-down or drained of physical or emotional energy, feeling misunderstood or unappreciated by your coworkers, feeling that you’re under too much pressure to succeed, feeling frustrated by organizational politics or bureaucracy, or feeling that there is more work than you practically have the ability to do.

The Colorado Medical Society recognizes the prevalence of burnout among physicians, particularly in this time of great change in health care. To help our members reflect on the meaningful difference they’re making in the lives of their patients and community and to recognize extraordinary actions, Colorado Medicine launched the Physician Heroes series. We will profile as many different members as we can who have gone above and beyond in the profession to help their colleagues or community. We hope you’ll see your own values reflected in these stories and be reminded of the joy of medicine.

Members are invited to nominate themselves or a colleague by contacting Dean Holzkamp at dean_holzkamp@cms.org or 303-748-6113 or Kate Alfano at kate_alfano@cms.org.

Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine, Resources, Initiatives, Physician Wellness