Health Care Quarterly:

Fighting the good fight: M. Schwartz

Don’t let the lab coats and scrubs fool you. Those trappings might be functional, but they camouflage one of the greatest secret weapons a medical professional can possess — the heart of a warrior.

Health Care Quarterly asked the folks on the frontlines of health care to think about their work like its a battle — because it often is. What is their biggest foe, and — most important — what are the tools in their arsenal to help stay ahead?

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Matthew Schwartz

Some truly great minds inspired me to get into oncology. When I was younger, a loved one’s oncologist was Dr. Heather Allen, who is one of my partners now. The way she cared for her patients helped spark my interest in oncology. When I was a medical student, I shadowed another doctor, Dr. Dan Curtis, who is also a partner of mine now. I had such positive interactions with oncologists and thought it was a field that I could give back, use my best attributes and maximize my talents.

It’s turned out to be a good fit for me, combining my passion for using high technology — working with computers and 3-D imaging — and having a close relationship with patients.

As for what I’ve learned over the years? No. 1: You don’t know everything, no matter what you’ve learned in the textbooks or think that you know. I learn every single day from my patients. Every patient is different and I learn what works and what doesn’t.

My patients are a source of inspiration for me — I see what people are going through and their amazing determination and will to live. I see them showing up everyday. And, sometimes when times are tough, just showing up is 99 percent of the battle. It’s about putting your best foot forward and that’s how success is created.

As for tricks of the trade, it’s less about preparing for the day and more about decompressing. Fighting cancer can be stressful, hectic and emotional. I let those emotions go through a strict exercise program — I need some kind of physical activity to sweat and let all the stress out.

I don’t want to take that home with me and that’s my outlet.