Every Waking Moment
Dr. Erin Dunbar was late to the meeting because she was strategizing with a colleague on how to improve medical access for patients.“The current healthcare system is fractured for patients and caregivers, and it’s absolutely fixable,” said Dr. Dunbar, director of Neuro-Oncology at Piedmont Brain Tumor Center and American Brain Tumor Association 2019 National Conference Co-Chair. “The healthcare system is not serving patients as it should. We have the technology for, say, a single medical record system, but funding and political factors are getting in the way.” Dr. Dunbar has spent more than a decade—including her nights, weekends and any spare waking moment—advocating at the state and federal level for improvements in the healthcare system. She does this in addition to her day job—working tirelessly with patients and their families to beat the odds when they are faced with a brain tumor diagnosis. She never had an “aha” moment that drove her to become a neuro-oncologist or a founding member of the Piedmont Brain Tumor Center. But she recalls the influence of her father, a hospital pharmacist, who helped peel back the mysteries of medicine and the human body. Her mother, an educator and scientist, solidified the benefits of learning and passing on education that could help others. “During my medical training, the next medical frontier was the human brain,” recalls Dr. Dunbar. “The brain was this mysterious and daunting area of the body that still needed discovery. There were medical disorders of the brain, but no proven treatments. With the strong support of my spouse, family and mentors, I went into neurology to help those with brain and spine conditions.” It should come as no surprise that Dr. Dunbar doesn’t consider herself a hero, but rather the brain tumor patients who rise each day choosing to do everything they can. “The patients who are heroes are those who will do everything they can to live as long as they can, and are also realistic and know that they are not 100% in control,” shared Dr. Dunbar. “They have such grace in accepting the unknown, and they live for the moment, provide for their families and make memories.” Her priority: ensuring her patients have access to every treatment option and resource that will help them live longer and live their best lives.
Dr. Dunbar often sees how patients who engage and get the support they need from the ABTA come into her appointments with confidence and a sense of balance in their pursuit of living their best lives. Patients and families have said they feel better-equipped to tackle the challenges from a brain tumor diagnosis and treatment regimen because they’re getting information from a reliable resource.
“The ABTA is like an invisible partner when I am in the clinic,” said Dr. Dunbar. “In this mission to change the future of a brain tumor diagnosis, it takes partners of all kinds to help our brain tumor community succeed.”