Schwartzentruber has been a surgical oncologist and the medical director of the Center for Cancer Care for the past four years. Prior, he served as senior investigator in the surgery branch of the National Cancer Institute for 13 years. His research on the role of vaccines in the treatment of malignant melanoma has gained international attention.
You had a very successful career at the National Cancer Institute. Why did you come back to Goshen, Ind.?
I would say two things. One was the passion that I sensed here at this health system for patients, for caring for people. And family. The passion that I sensed among the people here was really unique and contagious.
What do you love about this community that keeps you here?
The people, the caring and support that is really felt in this community. It is a community that people live their beliefs and practice their beliefs and genuinely care.
I grew up here until 4, then grew up in Argentina, back here for a year then GC, then medical school at IU. Came back for furloughs, maybe three times while gone 11 years.
What has changed in Goshen since grew up?
The changes that I see are particularly related to the college, in terms of the music program and facilities, the spill over of a lot of educated people into the community. I don’t think you see that in a lot in other communities. There are a lot of people educated at Goshen and they go into the community to work, and are not very pretentious and self-promoting. It is a simple community with a lot of educated people. I think that is one of the gifts of Goshen College back to the community. And the arts that it attracts. The one thing that we don’t have much is restaurants, and we miss that a lot.
What contribution do you hope to make for this community in the medical field, and specifically as head of the Center for Cancer Care?
The obvious contribution is to treat cancer. However, the bigger challenge is to educate the community for not only early detection but also prevention. That is the biggest focus. And we can get sidetracked by the immediate need of treating a problem, of treating cancer. The bigger service to the community is to educate and to change habits and promote healthy lifestyles to prevent cancer.
What is your personal mission in terms of how you go about your work?
I think putting patients first and meeting the needs of an individual, not just physical but emotional and spiritual. Being sensitive to those needs and creating an environment where those needs are met. I say that we are here to help in the healing process, though we may not always cure the cancer. There can be healing without cure, because it involves the whole person.
Our cancer center is progressive in that regard, because of its integrative and multidisciplinary model, it allows for all the needs of an individual to be cared for. A lot of cancer centers are moving to that model, but it is difficult to make happen in a large center. Most models of cancer care will try to bring specialists together under one roof, but that is difficult when they each have different objectives. Here we share one mission, because we are all employees of the cancer center. We are very mission-driven. It is pretty unique in healthcare to be so mission-driven and to have a vision statement.
What gives you the most satisfaction professionally?
It is the interactions with patients and helping individuals walk through the process of learning, treating, accepting and living with cancer. To witness, most of the time, their values for life change. It is a daily example to me and one that helps me grow in terms of prioritizing what is really important in life. What really means most in life. The simple things, the relationships, the quality times with family and friends, and things like that which many times in our busy schedules get pushed aside, but to see how cancer patients once they are faced with a very difficult situation rearrange their priorities, and how happy they are about it. Cancer can become secondary when you rearrange your priorities. To me it is very inspiring and a lesson.
Where do you see the Center for Cancer Care in 10 years from now?
We have a 10-year goal. We will be quite a bit larger because of the growth. It will mean a broader reach in the community. More services, expanded services, more physical space, more doctors, more experts and certainly we are already attracting patients nationally and internationally, and that will continue. Just today we are making arrangements for a patient from Turkey to come to be treated here. Part of what will be driving that is the new programs, the new discoveries, that we have here. We are doing medical research and we expect those discoveries to attract patients looking for new treatments options. We are seeing about 700 new patients each year right now. In the last four years, since I have been here, we have doubled. That will be increasing significantly. We will be eight times larger in 10 years, in terms of the patient volume.
How do you forsee those changes impacting the Goshen community?
It is an impact economically because there are more professionals. Growth in cancer really has a ripple effect for the whole hospital. As we have expanded services in the Cancer Center, it demands better emergency room access, better radiology, all the other supporting services have had to raise a notch. So the quality of care for health care in general goes up because of the demand with the new cancer services. From a community point of view and an economic development point of view, there is a lot of talk about the brain drain and we are trying to keep more life sciences jobs here in Indiana, and I think that helps because of all the health care related industry jobs that currently are being trained in Indiana, people that would stay. You also think there is Internet need so there is an excuse for broadband. It is more jobs. The Goshen Health System has about 1,300 jobs right now and the more you grow then there are more jobs for the community.