Neurosurgical oncologist Howard C. Chandler, M.D. joined the Piedmont Brain Tumor Center as our medical director after developing the Brain Tumor Center at Baptist Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla. Freda Wall, PA-C, clinical coordinator of the Piedmont Brain Tumor Center, recently sat down with Dr. Chandler to discuss his plans for the future of the Center and what attracted him to Piedmont.
Freda: Dr. Chandler, tell me about your background and what you have been doing until now.
Dr. Chandler: I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla., where my father was a neurosurgeon. I went to undergraduate school at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. and attended medical school at Wake Forest University. I completed my residency at the University of Florida in Gainesville and a tumor surgery fellowship at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. I began my first practice in Missoula, Montana, and moved back to Jacksonville in 2006 to develop a Brain Tumor Center at Baptist Hospital.
Freda: Tell me about the Brain Tumor Center at Baptist Hospital.
Dr. Chandler: Baptist Hospital committed a large amount of money to building a Brain Tumor Center. I moved there in 2006 and at that time, they only had a 5 percent market share and were doing one or two tumor surgeries per month. When I left, it was the busiest brain tumor center in the region with a full complement of all services.
Freda: Why do you enjoy limiting your practice to brain tumors only?
Dr. Chandler: To be the best you can be in your specialty, you can't be distracted by other things. Other types of neurosurgery are such a demand on your time that you can't devote yourself to those patients, especially post-operatively, if you are involved in all types of neurosurgery. There is a lot involved in the coordination of brain tumor patients' cancer care, their chemotherapy and radiation treatments and their wellbeing, as well as their end-of-life issues. In other words, if you are doing general neurosurgery and dabbling in brain tumors, all you can focus on is the brain tumor; you can't focus on the patient. If you devote yourself to just doing neuro oncology, you can devote yourself to the patient and not just to the tumor and the tumor surgery.
Freda: What attracted you to Piedmont Healthcare?
Dr. Chandler: The primary aspect was Piedmont's obvious dedication to building a top-notch brain tumor program and also the opportunity and the need in Atlanta for a comprehensive, cutting-edge brain tumor program. There are good brain tumor surgeons in the region, but there is no comprehensive brain tumor treatment program in Atlanta. For a city of 6 million people, there needs to be one.
Freda: What is the five-year plan that you have in mind for the Piedmont Brain Tumor Center?
Dr. Chandler: The intermediate goal is to build a more comprehensive program with other specialties and innovative treatments. It is important that we hire a neuro oncologist to do the chemotherapy treatments and develop a clinical research trials program where we can offer innovative experimental treatments to patients when traditional treatments start to lose their effectiveness.
The long-term goal is to turn the Piedmont Brain Tumor Center into a nationally-prominent brain tumor center where patients come from all over the country or all over the world for treatment. Atlanta presents a unique opportunity to do that because of the large population base, the Atlanta airport and the ease of getting here from anywhere in the country and almost anywhere in the world. Also, Piedmont has the will and the dedication to build that kind of program.
Freda: How does philanthropy fit into the brain tumor program?
Dr. Chandler: Brain tumor care and treatment is very expensive. There is currently no cure for many types of brain tumors, and to develop cures and offer hope for these patients, you have to have ongoing research. We need basic research that develops new treatments and new drugs that can move into clinical practice. We must have clinical trials and be able to offer patients experimental, innovative unique treatments. Because of the economics of health care in the U.S., research must be supported through philanthropy; therefore, donor support is critical to offering hope to brain tumor patients seeking treatment in a center such as ours.