Despite Dr. James Sinclair’s experience and reputation in cancer care, when you ask him about his practice he doesn’t tell you what he does for patients — he tells you about what patients can do for themselves.
He helps them recognize that in addition to the range of medical resources available, the patient him- or herself is one of the strongest resources in the fight against cancer.
“Here are three things you can do,” he tells them. “Learn about healthy diet, habitual physical activity, and ways to reduce stress.”
In addition to Dr. Sinclair’s experience, research evidence also suggests that cancer patients do better during and after treatments if they feel like empowered participants in their own care. Rather than just submitting to medical experts and technologies, Dr. Sinclair encourages patients to play an important role themselves.
It’s important to get patients engaged early, because cancer is, of course, very frightening.
“I see it in their eyes,” he says. “From the minute they hear the diagnosis they think, ‘How could this be happening.’ If they can get a quick sense that there’s a trained human being in their court, it removes some of that fear and makes it easier to handle. It eases the uncertainty.”
And when that trained human being — their physician — takes them on as a true partner in their care, it makes a big difference.
Dr. Sinclair is an oncologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, as well as medical director of the Scripps Cancer Center (SCC), Stevens Division. Scripps Cancer Center brings together cancer resources across the Scripps system.
His purview of Scripps cancer services is both broad and local. Broad, because he’s very familiar with the wide range of cancer resources available at SCC, California’s only Commission on Cancer Network Cancer Program. Local, because Scripps La Jolla oncologists are a small, close-knit group.
Despite the wide range of resources and expertise available, Dr. Sinclair asserts that what distinguishes Scripps cancer care is that it’s truly personal.
“Say I have a patient at another facility for treatment," Dr. Sinclair says. "But if it’s 2 a.m. Saturday morning and they’re not feeling right, they know they can call a number and get me, or my covering doctor. And if they need to be seen, I’m going to see them. It’s not going to be a fellow [graduate medical student], or someone they don’t know. It’s me.”
Dr. Sinclair is proud to be a good Midwesterner, which partly explains his focus on self-empowerment, and which has helped him connect with the many patients who come to San Diego from the Midwest.
His long-held interest in sports (note the Packers and Thunder helmets in the photo above) and the outdoors have similarly influenced his practice. Hikes in the mountains, for example, underscore the many physical and mental benefits of exercise in the invigorating context of natural beauty.
Dr. Sinclair’s work at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas also gives him a perspective on where Scripps cancer care is heading. With new Scripps Coastal Medical Center physicians sending patients to Scripps Encinitas, the hospital is poised to build on its relationship as a trusted community partner in North San Diego County.
Having cancer expertise in your own neighborhood is essential when you need it. In addition to shorter travel time for appointments, the personal attention is crucial.
“I’m proud to say that all our La Jolla and Encinitas staff are interested in who you are as a person, not just your illness,” Dr. Sinclair says.
As Dr. James Sinclair knows, this can make all the difference.