McConnor's Corner
A Living Tribute To Compassionate Care
By Sean McConnor
Sep 1, 2003 - 11:15:00 PM

LOS ANGELES — If you recall last month's column, I told you about a doctor of mine, Dr. Shaw, who had passed away and who was a super person. Well, this time I want to praise a doctor who is still alive. I want to give her some flowers while she is still with us!

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The VA Medical Center in West Los Angeles. Jenna Skarzenski / Canyon News
The doctor I praise today is Dr. Suzy Melkonian who works at the VA Hospital in West L.A. She was born in Syria of Armenian descent and came to the U.S. and received her education. She is a cancer doctor.

We don't have to get into the specifics of cancer, but, it is suffice to say, it is one of the most difficult departments in the hospital. During the last two years, the patient load has increased. I am sad to say, business is booming.

Naturally, all of these new patients with some very complicated problems cause a lot of strain on the doctors. Some doctors become touchy and abrasive. Others retreat, but not Dr. Melkonian.

I have seen her patiently deal with multiple patients and their families at the same time. I have spoken with her as she agonizes over her patients' condition, some of whom have little time left in this world. They sought treatment too late or didn't follow the plan of care for themselves. I have also had her tell me some patients who we did follow passed away. We both grieve.

But grieving won't do it as a cancer doctor. You have to be smart to help people. Dr. Melkonian is board certified in hematology-oncology (blood and tumors). She has worked at Olive View-UCLA Med Center. She works a morning clinic one day a week a couple of times a month at the Sepulveda VA, and she has clinic one day every week at the WLA VA, her base.

This wife and mother of three children always displays the tenacity and kindness of a caring person. She can be completely objective in workshops where a patient's care is planned and she can discipline with precision the mistakes of others. But like everything she does, the good doc does it with compassion and respect for the other person, whether a fellow employee or patient.

Someday, she will probably be the chief of her department. I hope so. We need people at the helm who have kindness, intelligence, and organizational skills. But most importantly, they have to be cool. They have to be very cool because you are dealing with dying people and their tormented and grieving families. Dr.Melkonian qualifies. She is way cool.



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