Be Seen, Get Screened's Physician Spotlight Q&A series highlights the work of health care professionals on the front line in the fight against colon cancer. In our latest Q&A, we talked to Dr. Mark Prince, a gastroenterologist at USMD in Arlington, TX.
Be Seen, Get Screened: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your professional experience?
Dr. Prince: I was born in Kentucky. I did all my medical training at the university of Kentucky in Lexington. I am a UK Basketball fan. My fellowship training was focused on advanced endoscopy like ERCP. I joined Oak Ridge Gastroenterology Associates (a five-doctor single specialty GI group) in 2002 and worked there until I moved here (12 years). I enjoy seeing all types of adult gastro patients. I’m constantly improving my skills. I have learned or relearned video capsule endoscopy, acid reflux testing, GI motility testing, enteroscopy, endoscopic ultrasound, biliary cholangioscopy, hemorrhoid banding, etc over the years.
I have strived to understand the business aspects of medical practice over the years as well. I have been active in coding/compliance. Ambulatory surgery center management, director of hospital endoscopy services, etc.
I furthered my skills by finishing my MBA with a focus on healthcare management. The training was important to expand my vocabulary and knowledge of business decisions. Finally, I have been active in promoting gi issues with several newspaper articles, patient and doctor newsletters in my local community in Tennessee prior to moving here. I was also active in physician leadership, over the last few years, I served as chief of medicine, vice chief of staff, and chief of staff at my local hospital in Tennessee.
I enjoy working, but when not working, I like being at home with my family (my wife and two kids).
BSGS: How much of your time is devoted to colon cancer prevention and treatment?
Dr. Prince: Colon cancer prevention with colonoscopy is the most important part of any general gastroenterology practice. I estimate that 1/3 of my work is related to colon cancer prevention.
BSGS: You’re a Kentucky native, a state with one of the highest colon cancer incidence rates in the United States. Did this have any effect on your career in gastroenterology?
Dr. Prince: I became a gastroenterologist to help people with digestive issues. Eating is such a pleasure and a comfort for all of us. When the process does not work well, it affects a person -- their whole life. Colon cancer is such a deadly disease, and it remains asymptomatic for a long period. That is the reason routine screening is so valuable.
BSGS: What are some common objections to colorectal cancer screening? How do you address them?
Dr. Prince: Barriers to patients getting screening is lack of awareness (this is much improved over the last 5-10 years), cost (this has improved since Medicare and many insurances now cover colonoscopy for routine screening), fear of complications (this is actually very rare for a normal screening colonoscopy), lack of time to be off of work for procedure and recovery/office visits, pain from procedure (with current sedative this is minimal).
We offer Direct Access colonoscopies to healthy individuals via a phone interview with a nurse to eliminate the need for a physician office visit prior (to save the patient time and missed work).
BSGS: How big of a problem is colon cancer screening avoidance from a gastroenterology perspective?
Dr. Prince: Approximately 60% of appropriate aged us individuals have undergone an acceptable colon screening test (this is really important since 40% are not reducing their chance of this serious potential deadly disease).
We address by education, colon cancer awareness month, encourage patient word of mouth to friends/family.
BSGS: How does USMD improve the colon cancer screening experience for patients?
Dr. Prince: We try to streamline the process using shared EMR from primary care providers to gastroenterologists.
We use direct access to eliminate need for physician office visit. We use enhanced sedation with propofol by anesthesia to make patients maximally comfortable.
BSGS: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Be Seen, Get Screened?
Dr. Prince: The US Preventative Service Task Force outlines the accepted options for screening. Certainly one colonoscopy every 10 years is best, with more focus on screening over the last 15 years, the annual rate of new colon cancer is falling. Screening Colonoscopies are working!