Day in the Life: Mesothelioma Specialist Dr. Jacques Fontaine

Jacques Fontaine, Moffitt Cancer Center

On the first day, Fontaine had at least 20 appointments with patients and loved ones.

Before every patient, he thoroughly reviewed their charts, checked any test results and discussed specifics with the rest of his team at the hospital. That’s one of the benefits of a multidisciplinary medical team: You are getting the best care by having a specialist for each aspect of your treatment.

Patients — men and women — asked Fontaine specific questions about their mesothelioma diagnosis:

  • What are my options?
  • Would chemotherapy help me?
  • Am I a surgical candidate?
  • Will surgery improve my prognosis?
  • What about my quality of life?

Between appointments, Fontaine rushed to another floor to check on the patients he operated on earlier in the week. As a busy surgeon, he not only balances surgeries but also patient follow-ups and his duties with the hospital’s various medical boards.

Day Two: Surgery

On the second day of our trip, Fontaine offered us a medical preceptorship, which is when a practicing medical doctor volunteers to provide his students personal training and supervision. As part of that instruction, we had the rare opportunity to sit in on a surgery.

For six hours, Fontaine was focused and driven. He was dedicated to assuring everything went according to plan.

Between multiple nurses, an anesthesiologist, a nurse anesthetist and a resident surgeon, the patient was certainly in good hands.

For two days, Fontaine allowed three ordinary people with no medical training to experience life through the eyes, ears and hands of a top mesothelioma surgeon.

Missy Edmunds’ Top Takeaways

Medical Outreach Director Missy Edmunds is responsible for building many of our relationships with top doctors and surgeons. She is often the one who connects patients and loved ones with the best specialist for their diagnosis and quickly gets them an appointment.

Her two-day visit at Moffitt helped her craft what she considers the best tips for patients:

    • Call before your appointment to make sure the doctor’s office received all your medical records. This will make it possible for the physician to thoroughly look over the pathology report, medical records and scans before they meet with you. Allowing the doctor to view all records and scans first helps you make the most out of your appointment.
    • It is so important to write down questions prior to your appointment. This is the only way to guarantee you will get all the answers you need. Not sure what to ask? Check out this list of questions to ask your mesothelioma specialist.
    • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. If your doctor feels like you may be a surgical candidate, they will want to evaluate your fitness level then and there. For example, Fontaine asks patients to walk up a flight of stairs with him before taking their blood pressure. He wants to see if the readings will impact the patient’s recovery after surgery.

Jose Ortiz’s Top Takeaways

As our Medical Outreach Liaison, Ortiz seeks ways of connecting patients with experienced specialists and facilities close to their homes.

His following takeaways focus on the importance of maintaining good patient-doctor interaction and having a multidisciplinary team:

    • Fontaine has a tremendous impact on his patients. His ability to interact with each patient — all of whom react differently and come from diverse backgrounds — makes it possible for patients to quickly develop trust and hope in him. This was a great reminder to be thankful for specialists and medical advancements.
    • I witnessed the benefits and importance of a multidisciplinary team and program. To be able to work closely with specific colleagues and peers to ultimately provide patients the best treatment options is so important to overall health and wellness of the patient. When I was able to see Fontaine telling a patient that his colleague would be coming in to talk about clinical trials and chemotherapy, I knew patients were hearing the options they needed to make the best treatment decision.
    • I never realized what an extremely busy and diverse day surgeons have. At any point, your priorities may shift, but you must remain focused in order to address the needs of your patients. It was Fontaine’s thoroughness and strong communication with patients and their families that allowed him to deliver any news and still see a look of hope and understanding in the patients’ eyes.

No one should feel hopeless if they are diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Thanks to mesothelioma specialists such as Fontaine and new medical advancements, there is reason for having hope — patients are living longer than ever before.

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Communications Manager

Cara is a childhood cancer survivor, daughter of a long-term breast cancer survivor, and she knows life as a caregiver. She is also a member of the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE leadership committee, a repeat team captain for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life and has the Social for Health Care Certification from Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite. Cara also frequently writes for HuffPost.

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