As an internist, Dr. Elizabeth Kaplan has had a number of patients who are either a cancer survivor or actively in treatment for cancer. She knows that deciding on a correct path for follow-up care or seeking general medical care in either situation can be confusing.
Kaplan joined the Survivorship Clinic in 2011 seeking to aide cancer survivors in finding a balance with their cancer care and primary medical care. As a member of the clinic, she is not only able to provide quality care to cancer survivors; Kaplan is able to address cancer survivorship issues through research.
When Kaplan is not at the Survivorship Clinic, she is an attending physician in the Division of General Medicine at the University of Washington. Her current activities combined with her previous experience as a primary care physician at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center keep her in tune to the day-to-day issues patients may have.
“Working with primary care patients in San Francisco who had cancer inspired me to help them to better navigate their health care questions and concerns after they finished active care with their oncologists,” says Kaplan. “I listen to my patients’ stories and try to guide them toward resources to address their concerns, health questions, and find ways to improve their overall quality of life.”
Her focus on each cancer survivor includes learning their history which is invaluable to developing an appropriate follow-on care plan. Kaplan explains that conversations with patients help her understand how having cancer has shaped their perspective about health care as well as life, in general.
She believes communication does not end with the patient, but must involve the entire team. Kaplan connects with each patient’s oncologist and primary care provider to share the plan and recommendations.
“I have always had an interest in bridging the gap, says Kaplan. “I work to strengthen the communication links between primary care and cancer care providers and look for forums for both to interact and learn from each other.”