Eli Abernethy – DIF Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

This blog was written by Eli Abernethy ’19, 2019-2020 Davidson Impact Fellow for Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

It is hard to capture in such a short reflection the extent to which I have enjoyed my time as an ethics fellow at the Winship Institute. The fellowship has exposed me to a broad range of bright and driven people within the Emory community, many of whom I collaborate with each day. These include clinical researchers, nurses, residents, pharmacologists, radiologists, oncologists, and patients themselves. These interactions have been formative on their own: I have grown more comfortable working in a fast-paced setting and collaborating with others, regardless of their position or rank in the medical field.
Moreover, the fellowship has provided me with empirical ethics research experience on multiple topics while also offering an equal amount of time observing the characteristics of what good clinical practice looks like. This has provided me with a tremendous amount to learn (and hopefully one day emulate).

Most of our work involves exploring ethical issues in cancer care, and this involves interviewing both doctors and patients. Speaking with both groups is extremely interesting. We hear from experienced and renowned oncologists about how they practice medicine and the characteristics they find most important for a strong relationship with their patients. Interviewing patients allows for them to reflect on their condition and attitude towards their treatment plan, while we have the honor of hearing just a small part of their life story and witnessing their strength. Moreover, the time spent with both doctors and patients has allowed me to better appreciate the complexities of the doctor-patient relationship, namely by giving me opportunities to study the relationship from both perspectives.

Overall, the fellowship has provided me with an excellent foundation of medical ethics and an appreciation for the importance of patient advocacy. I look forward to the rest of my time here and continuing to advocate for positive changes in cancer care in a clinical setting, however small they may be.

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