Dr. Edward WalshBy the time most patients have reached Dr. Edward Walsh, they already have heard some of the worst news that will hit their ears.
You have cancer.
It’s Walsh’s job to help them manage, and ultimately beat, cancer. He is an oncologist at Mercy Medical Center, a job in which the communication skills are every bit as important as the medicine.
“Cancers are devastating diagnoses because a lot of the treatments are rough on folks,” Walsh said. “A lot of it is just being supportive and getting people through their treatments. It is a scary thing for people to walk into.”
Explaining cancer treatments is often a confusing conversation. Many patients still are trying to grasp the diagnosis, let alone understand the five syllable words that go along with them.
“Communication skills are a huge part of my job,” Walsh said. “Part of my job is to be a translator, to put things in terms people can understand. It’s very easy to talk medicine and sound impressive, and people walk away and have no idea what you just told them. I try to frame those conversations in terms people can understand them. As physicians, that’s an area we could be better at.”
Walsh grew up in Rhode Island. He graduated from Walsh University in 1982 and from medical school at Case Western Reserve University. While radiology was an area that interested him, Walsh didn’t embrace the idea of reading scans and X-rays all day in a room. He wanted the interaction with patients, as well as the challenge of figuring out a plan to help patients beat cancer.
Not every person wins.
It is a prospect Walsh is well aware of. Death is a part of his life at work. He has figured out a way to cope with the reality of his profession.
“I guess it’s my mindset,” he said. “I accept there are some people I can help, but not necessarily cure.”