Calm in the Storm

He was always doing good things for people,” says Dr. Robert Veith about his childhood role model and family friend. “I wanted to do the same things.”

Veith speaks plainly about his dedication to his field and the real need for focus on cancer treatment. “When I was young and idealistic, I wanted to help by finding cures,” Veith says. “Now, I just want to help the patient as best as I can.”

While some seek cures through medical research, Veith chose to focus on treatment. By specializing in bone marrow transplants, Veith helps patients fight the disease every day.

“I try to do what’s right,” Veith says. “And, I’m patient. I take time to speak with the person, to find out what’s going on.” With every patient, Veith tries to make the most comprehensive assessment before deciding on a treatment plan. But that’s gotten harder to do since Katrina because patients have returned with partial records or no records at all.

Without knowing how or why they were diagnosed, Veith is often challenged to put the pieces of the patient’s post-storm history together.  “I had a 20-year-old patient with very advanced cancer,” Veith says. “It was like Lance Armstrong cancer. It was just everywhere.

“It was so hard to diagnose. It felt like a really long time but eventually we figured out what it was and decided on a treatment. Now, he is getting better everyday.”

The same commitment that drives him to see each case through inspired him to begin practicing as soon as possible after the storm, “I was really well positioned after the storm. Neither of my offices flooded.”

In fact, his practice was his refuge. Veith had not evacuated his Lakeview home when Katrina hit. So, after the storm passed, he walked to his Metairie office and waited until he could get out of the city. “I slept there,” Veith says. “I camped out on one of the couches for the first few nights after the storm.”

Even while he was stranded in his office, Veith used his time to help his patients. He gathered up files so he could send his patients their medical records, “I had to track a few of the down.”

Veith returned to his practice as soon as he could and was even seeing patients before Rita. Since then, he has seen his practice grow, though, he concedes, partially because of a lack of choices.

As a New Orleans native and a Louisiana State University graduate, Veith wants New Orleans to be able to offer people the best care available. He hopes that with the recovery of the medical schools people will have more options to seek cancer treatment.

“It’s helpful to know the idiosyncrasies of people here,” Veith says. “Some people around here can be kind of set in their ways.” Determined and committed, Veith finds a way to help them all the same.

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