Ten years ago, when Dr. Kevin Collins was practicing medicine in cancer care, he said it was just focused on the disease and treatment. The doctors would just focus on the prostate, for example, or whatever area was cancerous, do what they could to treat it and move on.
Now, however, he and his colleagues see the process in terms of people and their survivorship. There’s also a navigator who directs the patients through the process of their cancer treatment and there are better support groups available, Collins added.
Collins, who is the medical director for the Trinity Cancer Care Center and chief of staff for Trinity Hospital, was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and went to medical school at the University of Oklahoma. He completed his residency at the New York University School of Medicine and his first medical job was in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where he worked until he was recruited to start the cancer care center for Trinity 14 years ago. Originally, it was a two-year contract, but Collins thought he could stay here and has been in Minot ever since.
“The quality of life, the quality of medical care, and the quality of the people all make (Minot) an attractive place to live,” Collins noted. It’s an active and vibrant community, he continued, but small enough to be involved and take advantage of activities. “I have found the hospital to be progressive, the medical staff to be supportive, and the patients to be appreciative. It’s been a satisfying experience to work here.”
Collins thought he was probably a junior in high school when he knew he wanted to be a doctor. He felt it was an honorable profession and he wanted to help people, he explained. Plus, he was encouraged by his family to pursue that career, Collins added. He graduated from medical school in 1992, finished his residency in 1996, and has been practicing medicine ever since.
The biggest factor that helped Collins become interested in working with and treating people with cancer was when Collins’ aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. “That opened the door and my interest to it.”
As the medical director for the Trinity Cancer Care Center, Collins oversees the care at the center. Specifically, though, he is the radiation oncologist, which means he is physically responsible for treating cancer with radiation.
With any profession, there are sometimes aspects that prove difficult or challenging, and it’s no different with Collins’ line of work. He finds it the most difficult to deliver bad news to a patient and their family, he said. “It’s difficult to be honest and realistic sometimes, but it must be done,” Collins explained. “It is possible, (however), to deliver bad news in a supportive way and that comes with experience.”
On the other hand, there are also rewards to be found in the care that Collins provides. The most rewarding is to help people, whether in relieving pain for someone or helping him or her get cured, he said.
Every patient is unique and presents their own set of circumstances, Collins pointed out. Each one presents a challenge for him and needs his help, he added. “Knowing I make a difference is what keeps me going,” Collins said. “I have an incredible medical center staff I love to work with. Even though we have to work in an uncomfortable situation, they help make the best of it.”
When he isn’t helping people through their journey of treatment, Collins said he likes to travel. He also enjoys spending time with his family, reading, playing the piano, cooking and eating, he added. Collins also noted to be a History Channel junkie, courtesy of his passion for history, so when he travels, he likes to see historical places. His kids and their activities keep him busy as well, he also said.
Mainly, though, Collins spends much of his time at the care center. His field of medicine changes constantly, he said, and requires them to stay abreast of the latest developments, which is very mentally stimulating.
One of the biggest changes in the field, however, has been the combination of the planning aspect and the ability to deliver treatment, Collins said. The way that cancer is treated today is very different from 10 years ago. Higher doses of medicine with fewer side effects can be given to people and there’s better accuracy and precision since one specific area can be targeted, Collins said.
“We’re focusing on the whole person to give patients improved care and support.”
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.)