Dr. Kent Osborne honored for medical professionalism
Dr. Kent Osborne, director of the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Kent Osborne, director of the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine, has been named the recipient of the 2015 Ben and Margaret Love Foundation Bobby Alford Award for Academic Clinical Professionalism, an honor bestowed annually to Baylor physicians who best exemplify the trait of professionalism in the practice of medicine.

Throughout his more than 40-year career, Osborne has fought tirelessly to improve access to lifesaving breast cancer prevention and treatment for everyone in the community, most importantly the vulnerable women in the underserved communities. Osborne noted that this fight and responsibility of physicians best represents his vision of professionalism.

In the late 1970s, as a young faculty member at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Osborne recalled his shock at the sentiments of certain people who believed poor people didn’t deserve quality care. These experiences helped Osborne ferment his own beliefs, and he established two goals that have governed his approach to oncology and his vision of professionalism his entire career, he said.

Those goals included:

“First, to reduce morbidity and mortality from cancer, in my case my focus has been breast cancer, we need to integrate basic, translational and clinical research into state-of-the-art compassionate patient care,” said Osborne. “And second, we must extend what we already know today to all of our citizens, including the underserved, a goal that requires extra effort beyond one’s job description.”

Osborne and his colleagues at UTHSCSA and the Bexar County Hospital District saw patients in both the private and public setting to ensure all cancer patients received the same care by the same doctors.

In 1999, Osborne was recruited to establish a breast cancer center at Baylor and the Harris Health System’s (business name for Harris County Hospital District) Ben Taub Hospital, a Baylor hospital affiliate partner. Most of his San Antonio colleagues moved with him.

At Ben Taub, Osborne and his team were met with alarming statistics. Women before this were hospitalized for acute care with 60 percent of them diagnosed with late-stage disease. Very few women (roughly 14 percent of eligible women in the health system) had a screening mammogram, and when they did and it yielded cancer, the average delay from abnormal mammogram to first treatment was about six months.

Rattled by the statistics, Osborne and his team set out to improve care with everything from screening resources to end of life care. They partnered with several local and national foundations including the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Avon Foundation and Pink Ribbons Project to obtain grants to purchase new equipment, hire patient navigators and more efficiently conduct biopsies.

Today, the time from diagnosis to treatment at Harris Health is significantly shorter, the number of screening mammograms have risen and women are being diagnosed earlier, rather than later. 

“I am very proud of our team,” said Osborne, who stepped down as director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor in 2014 to focus on his role as director of the Duncan Cancer Center, a role he also has served in since 2005. “This represents professionalism at its best, using one’s skills and energies to improve the lives of others.”

His colleagues reflected on him as a leader and physician.

“Dr. Kent Osborne is a true colleague to those with whom he works. He listens to all opinions offered and is always open to new ideas. He treats all with respect,” said Mari Rude, nurse practitioner in the Smith Breast Center and longtime colleague of Osborne. “I believe he exemplifies professionalism in his clinical care of our patients with a humble and caring attitude.”

“As a physician, Kent is one of the most concerned and kind-hearted physicians I have ever worked with,” said Dr. Mothaffar Rimawi, medical director of the Smith Breast Center, who has worked and trained with Osborne since 2003. “He spends a lot of time with his patients and provides them with care that is both cutting edge and compassionate. On a personal level, he has been my teacher, my mentor, my boss, my ‘medical’ father figure, my colleague and my friend. His professionalism permeates everything he does and everything he says.”

“He cares deeply about his patients and provides them the best care,” said Dr. Matthew Ellis, current director of the Smith Breast Center, who joined Baylor in 2014. “To him, patients always come first. His patients love and admire him in return. He truly embodies the qualities of professionalism, leadership and most significantly humanism, in an academic clinician.”

Osborne will receive the award at the Baylor College of Medicine Class of 2019 White Coat Ceremony for first-year medical students on Aug. 14, where he will give a talk on professionalism.