Long-term practice of compassionate care

Annual Dr. Ali Al-Johani award recognizes Clinical Research Division doctor's excellence and empathy in post-transplant patient care
Dr. Mary Flowers
Dr. Mary Flowers, director of the Clinical Long-Term Follow-Up Program, has provided outstanding care for transplant patients for more than 20 years. Photo by Todd McNaught

Dr. Mary Flowers may be small in stature but her impact on people's lives is immeasurable. As the director of the Clinical Long-Term Follow-Up Program (LFTU), Flower's dedication to patients drew recognition last month by her colleagues, who nominated her as this year's recipient of the Clinical Research Division's Dr. Ali Johany Award for excellence in clinical care.

"Mary has a very straightforward approach to patient care and she has developed a follow-up program in transplant that exceeds anything anywhere in the world," said Dr. Marc Stewart, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance medical director. "Her compassion and ability to relate to patients are among her greatest strengths."

Dr. Fred Appelbaum, Clinical Research Division director, presented Flowers with the honor during the Jan. 20 Grand Rounds.

"It was so overwhelming," Flowers said remembering that day. "I was completely surprised. I could not find words to express how humbled and honored I felt to be presented with this award by Fred."

The annual Dr. Ali Johany prize recognizes a Fred Hutchinson physician who has provided exceptional clinical medical care and compassion to the center's patients and their families. Recipients are nominated based on their excellence in science and clinical performance, empathy toward patients, staff interactions and willingness to work on clinical and administrative assistance to improve patient safety and quality care.

"Basically what Mary's nominators said is that no matter how busy or how many competing priorities she has, she is always dedicated to her patients and the staff that takes care of them," said Aleana Waite, director of quality/risk management and patient family services at the Alliance. "She inspires the staff to function at their highest level by constantly teaching and by her examples."

The nominators base their selection on the input provided by faculty and patient-care colleagues at Children's Hospital, University of Washington Medical Center and Fred Hutchinson. Recipients are given a gift of $10,000 from a $150,000 fund donated by former center patient Dr. Ali Johany from Saudi Arabia.

Award recipients are nominated by Appelbaum and Louise Schilter-Harms, nurse manager of the Alliance inpatient transplant unit at 8 NE, Waite and Stewart.

"This award was very special to me because it came from Fred Hutchinson, an institution I am so proud to be part of," Flowers said.

Flowers first joined Fred Hutchinson in 1983 for a short fellowship where she worked with Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, the Nobel-prize winning pioneer of bone-marrow transplantation. Once completing her fellowship, Flowers returned to Brazil where she developed a national marrow transplant program in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1980s.

In 1987 Flowers returned to the center as a visiting physician and in 1990 became a faculty member of the LTFU. She now works with a team of physicians, nurses and middle level practitioners to manage post-transplant complications as they arise. Her major interest relates to LTFU patient-care issues including one-year follow-up visits of post-transplant patients at the Alliance clinic, chronic GVHD clinics and telephone consultation services to patients and their physicians. Flowers' clinical research focuses on chronic GVHD and recurrent malignancy after Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.

"I chose to be a physician because I want to be on the front line to help save lives," Flowers said. "For me, the greatest reward of my job is the gratitude of our patients and their families after we have done our best to alleviate their suffering."

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