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Meet the doctor bringing hope to the world of medicine – The Jerusalem Post

Posted: August 15, 2021 at 1:51 am


Prof. Ben Corn decided to become an oncologist when he was 11 years old. His father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and the disease soon claimed his life.

He was young and I was young, he said. I found that I could accept the fact that his disease was not curable, as disappointing and frustrating as it was. What I could not accept was the stigma surrounding cancer, the fact that I was not able to confide in anybody. I could not talk about it with my friends, and even my teachers, my rabbis, my community, the doctors at the top cancer center in New York where my father was treated, did not know how to deal with my family.

A specialist in radiation therapy, he has worked in some of the most advanced hospitals in the US and Israel, has authored dozens of medical studies, sat in multiple scientific committees and received a number of prestigious awards, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology Award in 2021.

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His careers focus, however, has not only been to find a cure for the disease including a prostate cancer that killed his father but to bring forth a revolution in oncology and in the whole medical field: infuse care for the patients with the science of hope, a mission that he pursues every day in the hospital, as well as chairman of Lifes Door, a non-for-profit organization that he founded with his wife Dvora Corn, a therapist, in 2004.

When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, we want to cure them, Corn said. The idea that hope equals cure however, can be very dangerous. Unfortunately there are still many types of cancer that are incurable, but in my vision, there should never be a scenario where we do not pursue hope, never a situation where we tell the person that we have nothing to offer to them.

His approach drives from the work and literature of prominent American psychologist Rick Snyder.

CORN EXPLAINED that the idea behind hope therapy and hope theory is to define goals based on what really drives a patient. This requires the physician to really look at the person in front of them, to understand who they are beyond their disease.

This way, I find that I learn a lot about the human being who is sitting with me, in a very intimate way, Corn said. This is an amazing privilege.

The goals do not have to be medical related at all.

There are different things that we can help a patient do, sometimes with the assistance of other professionals that we work with, the professor remarked. Maybe there is a degree that a patient was pursuing that he or she interrupted, maybe there are new or old hobbies to cultivate, and so on.

I think anyone would be surprised to see how patients want to speak to us about these things, how much it helps them, he added. And when I cannot bring a person to open up myself, I look for the help of a social worker, a chaplain or one of their loved ones.

Such an approach offers tremendous benefits not only to patients, but also to medical staff.

In the world of oncology, the rate of burnout is very high, Corn noted. But if a doctor can find a curiosity about the human being thats in front of them, then the case never gets boring. Its not just, Oh, another person with colon cancer. Its a person with colon cancer thats driven by these values. And this is always going to be interesting.

In addition, all physicians dread the moment when they have to tell a patient that all options for them have been exhausted, including any possible experimental treatment. The hope therapy offers the possibility of transforming that moment.

ACCORDING TO the doctor, a holistic approach to the patient is a key value to train medical students too.

In his opinion, all health systems in the world, including the Israeli one, should do a lot more to bring this view into the care they offer.

First of all, I want to say that the healthcare system in Israel is outstanding, Corn said. During the pandemic, Israel has been looked at as a model to emulate.

However, in terms of the emotional aspect, I think the whole world is still not where it needs to be and Israel is playing catch-up just like everyone else is, he noted. Healthcare providers face tremendous pressures in terms of time, but I dont accept this as an excuse. We must incorporate the vision of a more holistic approach to cancer care, as well as to all medical therapeutics.

Shaare Zedeks new cancer center will embody this worldview, starting from its architecture.

It is going to be a beautiful place, with a homey feeling and lots of wood, Corn said.

The structures faade will feature an abstract sculpture representing a butterfly.

This is a tremendously powerful idea, the doctor added. Because the butterfly, as we know, was a caterpillar that went through a metamorphosis, something similar to what happens to a person who experiences a significant change in life.

The center will offer patients everything they might need under one roof, including different treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, but also the support of psychologists, social workers and other professionals.

We are going to assist each patient in navigating the journey into cancer, Corn said. Every person will avail themselves of the state-of-the-art therapies, offering cutting-edge technologies. For those who are interested in a more experimental approach, this will also be available. Ive been an oncologist now for about three decades. There was a time when patients didnt have trust. You cant do medicine without trust. But now I think patients want to put their faith in us so we can give them the best opportunities with state-of-the-art therapies that are ethically designed. Its very exciting to be part of a team that can provide those opportunities for patients and family members.

MEANWHILE, WITH Lifes Door, Corn continues to work to bring the concept of a more person-centered approach to healthcare and beyond.

The organization describes its mission as to empower hope, meaning, and quality of life throughout illness, aging, and at the end of life.

For this purpose, they conduct scientific research and train relevant professionals to include hopefulness in their approach to medicine.

Recently, Lifes Door also launched a platform, Hopetimize, devoted to educating healthcare providers, but also volunteers, as well as patients themselves, family members and other communities in hope-enhancement techniques.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, several hundred volunteers were trained as Hope Responders to bring their support to elderly suffering from isolation.

For the future, the organization is working on another project, the Seal of Hope.

Our idea is that we can teach all the staff of a medical center hope-enhancing techniques and when I say staff I mean everyone, from the doctors to the guards, from the nurses to the orderlies, through the workshops and seminars we have developed, Corn said. Once this happens and the hospital meets a certain set of criteria, they can become a hospital of hope, certified by our Seal of Hope.

We often talk about how diseases and viruses are contagious, but hope is contagious too, he concluded. This is the message I would like to perpetuate.

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Meet the doctor bringing hope to the world of medicine - The Jerusalem Post

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