by Christopher M. Pezzi, MD
Director, Surgical Oncology, Abington Memorial Hospital
When a young man came to Abington Memorial Hospital with chronic pain and a large mass in the head of the pancreas, he needed complex and sophisticated treatment like many patients with hepatobiliary and pancreatic tumors. But instead of being transferred to a downtown hospital, he received the advanced care he needed in The Rosenfeld Cancer Center at Abington Memorial Hospital.
Having his treatment closer to home was possible due to an innovative new program that teams Abington surgeons, medical oncologists, interventional radiologists and gastrointestinal specialists with liver, pancreas and bile duct experts from the Drexel University College of Medicine. Together, doctors from both institutions performed a complicated Whipple procedure to restore the young man’s health and the patient recuperated at Abington.
As Abington has grown from a small community hospital to a 570-bed institution serving a broader region of suburban Philadelphia, we’ve developed our services to provide patients with the expertise they need. Out of that philosophy, we determined that expanding our surgical program in liver and pancreatic diseases would enable our patients access to the most advanced care.
We created the Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery program at Abington in conjunction with Drexel specialists. The program is led by William Meyers, MD, an Abington physician, professor and chairman of Drexel’s Department of Surgery, and a national expert on liver and pancreatic surgery. Other specialists in the program include David Reich, M.D., Burckhardt Ringe, M.D. and Gary Xiao, M.D.
This new program brings a full spectrum of services to Abington patients facing treatment for tumors, blockages and other conditions of the liver, pancreas or biliary system. Nearly all procedures—with the exception of liver transplants—are handled at our main campus in eastern Montgomery County, so patients benefit from the comfort of being close to their families and medical providers. A nurse navigator also helps by coordinating testing and appointments in what can be very complicated care.
At the heart of this new program is a powerful collaborative spirit. Drexel physicians maintain an office at Abington to see patients; doctors from both institutions join in a weekly videoconference to review cases and a monthly soft-tissue tumor conference. These joint consultations help us all. I’ve been practicing for 20 years, but recently when I saw a patient who had a cystic lesion in the body of the pancreas. I decided to present his case at the next conference where I could get three or four more opinions. Something good always comes out of such discussion, even when the other physicians agree with me.