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Weiner's Clinical Work Takes Mentoring Beyond Classroom


January 9, 2009 – As Dr. Louis Weiner makes his rounds at Georgetown University Hospital, he confides in his patient, “It feels good to be in a white coat again."

Part of Weiner's role as director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center includes meeting with patients in the clinic at the hospital. Once a week he can be found in the clinic, seeing anywhere from a handful of patients to a dozen or so each time.

Weiner assumed leadership of Lombardi last January, but he began making his clinical rounds toward the end of last semester. For him, being in the exam room and treating patients is like “regaining a missing limb." He describes his experiences with patients as a benefit to the research he conducts.

“Every time I have to tell a … person some terrible news, I'm reminded of where we have inadequate options for patients and the urgency of developing better treatments," he says. “That urgency that I feel has made me a much better scientist … it makes me less patient with dead-end research directions. My patients deserve better and I've become much more results-oriented in my research."

'Old School' Approach Gets Results

Weiner specializes in gastrointestinal cancers, such as colorectal, pancreatic, liver and stomach esophageal cancers. His patients run the gamut from those in early stages of the disease to more advanced cases.

The doctor, who also serves as the Francis L. and Charlotte G. Gragnani Chair of the oncology department at the Georgetown University Medical Center, recognizes the value of working with fellows and brings what he calls an “old school" approach to Lombardi's clinical fellowship training. Weiner believes physicians learn best through working with patients.

Fellows at Lombardi are typically recent graduates of medical residency programs who are looking for more training in a specific area. The 12 current fellows at Lombardi undergo intensive clinical training with numerous faculty members at the Georgetown University Medical Center. He explains that training to be an oncologist should consist of more than just learning to be a good doctor.

“It's our responsibility to make sure that we are training superb, compassionate doctors who are in tune with their patients' needs. And those doctors should be equally as comfortable having hospice conversations as they are discussing the latest literature about the molecular basis for cancer development," he says.

Dr. Howard Federoff, Medical Center executive dean and executive vice president for health sciences, agrees with that philosophy of teaching and leadership.

“Leaders such as Dr. Weiner -- who are not only outstanding researchers, clinicians and administrators," says Federoff, “but who also spend their time sharing their expertise and knowledge with fellows and residents -- are among our greatest assets, and contribute greatly to our mission as an academic medical center."

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