Phoebe Medical Oncology Director Dr. Robert Krywicki works to streamline care

CANCER CHRONICLES: Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center prepares for change

Dr. Robert Krywicki is the director of medical oncology services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center. He juggles administrative duties with patient care during his busy week. (Special photo)

Dr. Robert Krywicki is the director of medical oncology services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center. He juggles administrative duties with patient care during his busy week. (Special photo)

ALBANY — Over the past couple of years, work’s become a juggling act for Dr. Robert Krywicki.

The medical director of oncology services at the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, Krywicki is chiefly responsible for coordinating care for cancer patients at Phoebe’s main campus and its various Southwest Georgia outreach sites throughout all disciplines of oncology treatment, from chemotherapy to radiation to surgery.

Krywicki’s administrative duties, though, take up only around 25 to 30 percent of his busy schedule. A good 3 1/2 or more days of his week are devoted to patient care.

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“They haven’t figured out a way to clone me yet,” Krywicki joked during a recent rare break between patient visits. “So I’ve relied on my military training to take on this role. We were at a point where we needed to coordinate all of our oncology services through a central line rather than several different departments ourselves, or we needed to bring someone else in to make the changes.

“I had experience as chief medical oncologist at the United States’ first combined Air Force/Army medical center (Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas), so I agreed to take on this challenge.”

As part of his administrative duties, Krywicki, who earned his degree at the Temple University School of Medicine, works closely with Phoebe administration and with Cancer Center oncology chiefs Dr. Chirag Jani (hematology/oncology), Dr. Chuck Mendenhall (radiation oncology) and Dr. Troy Kimsey (surgical oncology) to coordinate staffing levels, clinical services, patient care, surgical scheduling and to generally streamline the hospital’s oncology network.

“The goal of the hospital is to develop service lines in other specialty areas like cardiovascular and neuroscience,” Krywicki said. “We want to achieve that in oncology to pave the way for the hospital’s other medical disciplines.

“And while streamlining services is one of our primary goals, we want to make the care that we provide more convenient for the people of our region. We think we’re doing that. By paying attention to such areas as social work, support groups, clinical trials and palliative care, we do a lot of things here now that keep us from sending patients elsewhere.”

Krywicki, who came to work at the Phoebe Cancer Center in 2002, said he has no problem separating his administrative duties from the needs of his patients.

“There may be (administrative issues) that demand my attention, but when I’m with a patient, that person has my full attention,” he said. “My approach to treatment is that the schedule we work under is just a suggestion, not reality. We schedule our patients for 15-minute slots, but we’re going to give those patients as much time as needed. If it’s five minutes or 30, every patient will get the time it takes to meet his or her needs.”

Still, with government and insurance-related intervention impacting the health care industry, Krywicki and the Phoebe Cancer Center staff know they must constantly deal with significant changes that will greatly impact the way they treat their patients.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to make cuts that put us into ‘do-more-with-less’ mode,” Krywicki said. “Still, the bottom line is to accomplish our mission.

“Sure, we’re just a relatively small town in Southwest Georgia, but I get no greater peace of mind than to have a patient say they want a second opinion from Shands or some other major facility and later have them tell me the second opinion they got there was the same as the one we gave.”