Atlanta, Georgia: Dr. Patricia Rich: cancer crusader.

Author:Alter, Diane

There are heroes and there are icons. And then there are those ordinary folks who embody what it means to be a good and decent person. The kind of person you look up to and want to emulate. For Dr. Patricia Rich, M.D., a medical oncologist with Cancer Treatment Centers of America[R] at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Newnan, Ga., that person was her father.

During her childhood years spent in Argentina, Dr. Rich watched in awe and admiration as her father fervently served the country's health campaign and its mission to give children vaccines. By the time she turned 15, Dr. Rich was part of the campaign. Her first brush with medicine was placing the polio vaccine on sugar cubes for children. That was when she found her calling and knew she was going to be a doctor.

But very early on, she knew she was not going to be just any doctor.

As a medical student, Dr. Rich was assigned to follow a cancer patient. The two became close and the patient confided that no one touched her because of her cancer, as if she were contagious. From that moment on, Dr. Rich has greeted every patient with a hug and pays attention to the whole person, not just the illness.

Still, she dedicates a great deal of her time to research and clinical trials, increasingly encouraged by the strides made in cancer treatments, including new drugs and therapies. Advances in research allow doctors to personalize cancer treatment according to the type and severity of the illness.

"As we individualize treatment, we hope to see marked increases in positive response rate," Dr. Rich shared.

Education is another key tool in combating cancer, and Dr. Rich is dedicated to providing as much knowledge as she can to the Latino community. Roughly 126,000 cancer patients are diagnosed each year and some 40,000 of those are Latino. As a medical oncologist, Dr. Rich treats patients battling a variety of cancers, from breast to prostate to brain and bone. But of all the...

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