It takes a certain kind of person to pursue a vocation in medicine. But to spend a lifetime specializing in cancer care, lessening the burden of a cancer diagnosis and seeing patients through to survivorship—that takes a special kind of doctor, indeed.
Dr. Vince Cataldo, an oncologist and hematologist with more than twenty years of experience, helps his patients face the unthinkable by developing innovative treatment plans to ensure they have the best quality of life possible throughout their care. As a steadfast source of support, he guides people through what is often the most difficult phase of their lives. As part of the collaborative team of oncologists at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, he serves on the Skin and Soft Tissue Multidisciplinary Care Team where he and his colleagues ensure best practice prevention and treatment of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers are available to patients.
Considering the gravity of his patients’ conditions, the nature of the physician-patient relationship tends to be extremely personal. “I don’t know that anything has the same emotional connection of a cancer diagnosis,” Dr. Cataldo says. To ensure the challenges of this dynamic—namely emotional exhaustion or burnout—don’t take a toll on him over time, Dr. Cataldo maintains reasonable expectations throughout each step of the treatment process, and helps his patients to do the same.
“When you’re able to realistically approach the disease every day, not only for yourself but more importantly for your patient, both of you are always on the same page of what that diagnosis means. By making sure they’re informed on each and every aspect of their care, I think patients respect you more for that and feel that they’re more a part of their own decision making.”
Though his work days are long, Dr. Cataldo integrates another personal passion into his daily practice—teaching the next generation of cancer doctors. Four days every week for the past twelve years, he’s led bedside teaching during inpatient consultations for all of the center’s LSU residents. “It’s the teaching that truly keeps me going.”
His desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others has always been at the forefront of his own life, even when deciding where to practice; he made the conscious effort to go where his help was most needed, where he could make the biggest impact.
“I could have stayed in Houston at MD Anderson, but I didn’t, because there’s a thousand of me over there,” he says. “I wanted to bring some of what I learned from training at a major destination cancer center back to a regional place and help the people in my hometown.”
He’s able to fulfill that aspiration at Mary Bird Perkins–Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, Dr. Cataldo says, thanks to its multidisciplinary approach of minds that use every resource available to conquer cancer. “To have people who are super specialized in each individual aspect of treatment is what cancer patients deserve, and to have that opportunity under one roof is really special.”