Science uncovers ways to battle cancer and cancer pain, but the human side of medicine is critical to quality of life. Jay R. Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., brings science and humanity together to benefit patients.
To look at him on paper, Jay R. Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., sounds like a scientific star. A magna cum laude graduate from Harvard University, he earned both his medical degree and doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco.
When he speaks, though, his soft-spoken voice and passion for the plight of his patients make clear that he’s more than a researcher. Discoveries from medical science will certainly leave a lasting benefit —but so will quiet moments spent in the clinic talking with mothers, daughters, sons and fathers.
The many years he’s spent with patients spur him to listen with his heart as well as his mind.
“Patients and their families can suffer so intensely during illness,” Thomas said. “We as members of their care team need to understand their experience.”
Holder of the Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair in Supportive Care Medicine, Thomas leads City of Hope’s Department of Supportive Care Medicine and specializes in pain and palliative care. That means, in essence, that he studies suffering and how to alleviate it.
The Department of Supportive Care Medicine team’s task is a big one. Thomas is an expert on pain medication and assessing and managing pain, but during serious illness, dealing with pain goes beyond writing a prescription.
“We need a team approach to expertly deliver care to prevent and relieve suffering not only on a physical level, but on psychological, interpersonal and spiritual/existential dimensions,” he said.
Thomas joined City of Hope in July 2008 to help lead the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, and he has deep aspirations for it. The center brings together and integrates the knowledge and practice of clinical social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, patient navigators, educators, pain and palliative medicine physicians and others who aim to support patients through every step of their cancer treatment at City of Hope.
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