Karolina Faysman [KF]: I started in oncology, which was my last choice. And then a couple of years later, my sister was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma. But my first thought of deciding to go to grad school was when you came at three in the morning to see a patient who was dying from ALL.
Gary Schiller [GS]: I do remember those middle-of-the-night treks when the street lights are just flashing red and there's no traffic around and coming in.
KF: That was a final push into getting an advanced degree in hematology/oncology.
GS: You kind of pioneered this advanced practitioner role that we didn't have before. What has it been like for you?
KF: Your first words to me were, "I don't know what to do with you." And I think you figured it out.
GS: Figured it out pretty fast.
KF: We now have over 300 nurse practitioners. When I started, there was only three of us. I think it has been the most exciting and interesting time my life. I work very hard, and I am striving to have my nurse practitioners work very hard in first of all, assuming the role of a bridge where the patients are developing a trust relationship and you have to listen to your patient and have that inner feeling — you may not know something is wrong, but you know something is wrong. But also I need to make sure that you trust me to take care of your patient. And I think that's a privilege that is not just given automatically; I think it's something that you earn.
GS: To me, it seems like a very old-fashioned system that somehow disappeared. A 100 years ago, there would always be an academic nurse with the academic physician, and they were kind of the right hand of the physician. It was a collaborative model, and then it sort of disappeared for 50 years, and now we've come back to this original model, which I think is very, very important; very helpful; and has made our whole program better, more personable and more responsive to patient needs.
KF: My favorite part of the job, though, is to call the patient, tell them that the bone marrow biopsy is clear. I love doing that.
GS: We're in a better place now than we were, that's for sure. We understand the disease biology. We have a lot of new drugs — where they will fit in the whole paradigm is unknown, but there are a lot of opportunities. I think there's some brightness here. When you see shadows, it's because behind the object is some light. And so there is some light here.
KF: I want to take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate your mentorship, your teaching and support, and that's very important to me as an advanced practitioner.
GS: Likewise — you and your team have really made a huge difference, really made the whole thing work and without you, we couldn't deliver the kind of care that we do.