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Helping through understanding

Author: Marc Reiss

In late 2008, I was getting ready to start a new job as a medical copywriter at an agency. New beginnings, new people… everything looking up. Then, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. And when I started that new job two weeks later, I wasn’t going to be working on the neurology brand as I had assumed, but rather three oncology brands and their respective managed care platforms. That’s a lot of cancer for a 27-year-old who was frankly intimidated by this particular category.

My first response was, ‘this is way too much to handle at one time.’ But after some thought, I wondered if my father’s illness and my job responsibilities could forge a new understanding in my mind. Perhaps learning about cancer through a professional lens could help me help my dad. I could gain greater knowledge about what questions to ask his doctors, or how to support my newly-titled caregiver mom. Additionally, my personal experience could help me better understand the patients’ point of view—what they are really going through in their lives. If I could reconcile my twin responsibilities, then at least other people might gain clarity.

In retrospect, this dire time ended up being a turning point for me. I learned how a deep understanding of others’ lives could help me in both my professional and personal experiences, especially when circumstances ended up throwing many more surprising curve balls. Understanding what others are going through, and applying this knowledge are the keys to healthcare marketing success for me. Was I looking for this lesson? Definitely not. But I am thankful to have learned something invaluable… Helping through understanding; it’s a practical philosophy.

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