Partners in patient care
Matt Bergman knows the pain and anger that patients with mesothelioma feel. As a founding partner at Bergman Draper Oslund Udo, he’s seen the toll the rare but deadly cancer can take on his clients and their families. He’s watched his clients endure severe chest pain and struggle for breath. Most people can trace the root of their disease to asbestos exposure in their workplace or from contaminated work clothes brought home by a family member, and they come to Matt for help.
After more than 25 years of representing families affected by mesothelioma, Matt and his partners are ensuring that their clients—and other patients like them—can get the best treatment possible by supporting a fellowship through the Swedish Thoracic Surgery program.
Over the years, Matt’s respect and admiration for his clients has only grown stronger. They fought in wars and built America’s infrastructure of ships, skyscrapers, power plants and dams, all the while being exposed to asbestos without their knowledge. “My clients are people who have worked very hard for their whole lives to support their families and serve their country,” says Matt. “The most rewarding thing is to know I’ve made a difference in their lives.”
Patients with mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs and other organs, can endure a daunting combination of radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. But thanks to research, more people are living longer with the disease. Matt remembers one client who devoted the six and a half years he lived after his surgery to advocating for other mesothelioma patients before Congress. “He was an incredibly articulate and forceful advocate,” says Matt, “who wanted to use his limited time to make a difference for other mesothelioma victims.”
Through that client and many others, Matt came to know Eric Vallières, M.D., and his team of surgeons at Swedish Thoracic Surgery. “My clients tell me about the high level of care that they receive, not just in terms of the technical implementation of medicine, but also the level of personal care and compassion,” says Matt. When he heard about the fellowship program, Matt and his partners jumped at the opportunity to support leading-edge research and the development of the next generation of expert surgeons.
Most fellows who join the research program are finishing up general surgical training and aiming to move on to thoracic surgery training. Their year-long stint at Swedish provides dedicated time for research. “They get a chance to spend time delving into thoracic surgery and diseases of the esophagus and chest without any other clinical duties,” says Brian Louie, M.D., the director of thoracic research. And while preparing for the next steps in their career, fellows are also driving new developments in the field. “Research advances practice. It may change the way we do things or provide information about clinical problems that other surgeons encounter,” says Dr. Louie.
After each physician completes their training, they take all they’ve learned as Bergman Draper Oslund Udo research fellows wherever they settle. “Our hope is that the physicians we’re training will be the leaders in thoracic surgery around the country,” says Dr. Louie. “We’re grateful for the firm’s support.”
For Matt and his firm, their gift is another way they can continue to take care of their clients. While doctors and lawyers working together might sound like the wind up to a punchline, Matt is proud of this partnership. “I think this is an example where physicians and lawyers can work together very effectively in the service of people who need help.”