Linda Duggan begins every day with a game plan but isn't surprised if she has to forgo it an hour into her day. As office manager in Melanoma Medical Oncology, she performs balancing acts daily to help her team with both paperwork and patients. She's the December Heart of MD Anderson. "I put out a lot of fires," Duggan says. "I see what someone in our department needs now, and I do it. I will bust every bone in my body to get something done if I can." Duggan handles administrative work, drafts proposals and goes to bat for patients, too. One example: When insurance companies regard a certain treatment as research, sometimes they refuse to pay, and Duggan does her best to convince them it's medically necessary. She'll review a patient's entire medical record and condense the information into a paragraph detailing why the patient needs the treatment. In the case of metastatic melanoma, one groundbreaking treatment here takes advantage of the body's own attempt to fight back with cancer-killing T-cells. Our surgeons remove T-cells from the patient, and a laboratory team induces them to multiply into billions of cells. Then the T-cells are transfused back into the patient to fight the tumors. Duggan has a strong track record for getting favorable decisions from insurance companies by providing letters of medical necessity for patients undergoing this treatment. "I get possessive of our patients and want to help give them a chance to live, so I fight for them," she says. Duggan has lost a parent and daughter to cancer, and her personal story helps her feel even more connected to her work. "I think of cancer as an evil twin living inside of you that wants to kill you. When the doctors I support find the right combination to treat and cure this disease, it's wonderful," she says. "I know patients who have done very well, when if treated at almost any other facility, they would not be here. I am so proud of our melanoma physicians."
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