A Q&A with a Pediatric Oncologist

Dr. Adam Fleming (right) looks at his patient (left). The patient is a young girl.

Meet Dr. Adam Fleming, a pediatric oncologist who cares for cancer patients and families who visit McMaster Children’s Hospital from across the region.

How does your work with pediatric patients differ from the care of adult cancer patients?

“Although a cancer diagnosis is stressful for all patients, regardless of age, pediatric patients and their families may require an extra level of support to help them understand and deal with their disease. I follow the child’s lead when I’m conducting an examination, constantly adapting my approach to ensure that the experience is as engaging as possible.

It’s important to work with parents and let them know that the multidisciplinary team in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic – including Child Life Specialists, social workers, nurses and many more professionals – takes a family-oriented approach to care. We foster a strong sense of community between clinicians, families and patients.”

Why is a multidisciplinary approach important?

“I regularly meet with colleagues to discuss patients in the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Clinic. This includes a number of different disciplines, including neurosurgery, radiation oncology, rehabilitation services and nurse practitioners. As we review MRIs and talk about treatment planning, having a diverse set of perspectives is invaluable in terms of determining the best course of care for each specific patient.

I enjoy working with such a great group of people who show a tremendous level of commitment to patients and families every day.”

What is the most fulfilling part of your work?

“I’m drawn toward the energy and playfulness of kids, and seeing their smiles is a wonderful part of what I do. I enjoy working closely with patients and families during such a difficult time in their lives. Sometimes I tell parents that I’m like their guide on a white-water rafting trip – we don’t know what’s ahead, but I’m there to help them navigate through the choppy waters.

I became involved in pediatric oncology because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m extremely grateful for the support of donors, who play such an important role in enhancing the level of care we’re able to provide.”