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Wendy S. Harpham, MD

Healthy Survivorship for Cancer Patients

Wendy S. Harpham is a doctor of internal medicine and 27-year cancer survivor. When ongoing illness forced her to retire from clinical medicine, she continued caring for patients by writing and speaking about survivorship, as well as by serving as a consultant and a patient advocate on local and national levels.

In addition to eight books and many articles, she writes an award-winning regular column in Oncology Times, “View from the Other Side of the Stethoscope.” Dr. Harpham travels internationally, delivering keynotes to medical and lay audiences. Much of her work addresses healing clinician-patient bonds, managing uncertainty, nourishing healing hopes, and helping patients narrow the gap between knowing what to do and doing it. Her work has received numerous awards, including the 2017-2018 Nicholas A. Davies Memorial Scholar’s Award from the American College of Physicians for her contributions to humanism in medicine, as well as the 2000 Governor’s Award for Health for which she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.

Dr. Harpham is an adjunct professor at University of Texas at Dallas, where she co-teaches an honors seminar (Medicine, Politics and Philosophy), as well as mentors premedical students one-on-one and through workshops and lectures.

With the publication of her first book in 1992, she coined the term “Healthy Survivor” and presented her three-step approach to “Healthy Survivorship”: (1) Obtain sound knowledge, (2) Find and nourish hope, and (3) Act effectively.

Her later books also made significant contributions to survivorship by discussing the notions of a “new normal” and “post-cancer fatigue,” as well as offering the practical “Harpham Decision Tool” to help patients make wise treatment decisions. All Dr. Harpham’s books blend scientific evidence-based information with practical philosophy.

Known for her wit, Dr. Harpham is a nationally recognized keynote speaker. At survivorship conferences and celebrations, Dr. Harpham connects with patients and their families as only a survivor can, sharing stories and advice that both educate and inspire.

For her keynote lectures at medical Grand Rounds and at all-day medical conferences, Dr. Harpham addresses doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. From her shared background as a healthcare professional, she offers valuable insights and suggestions for healing patients in today’s medical world of high-tech treatments, Internet-savvy patients, and ever-increasing time pressures.

She is currently enjoying her longest remission. However, aftereffects keep her from returning to clinical medicine. So she continues to devote her energy to helping survivors through her speaking, writing (books, articles and blog) and activities as a patient advocate (member of steering committees, oversight boards and think tanks; captain of Wendy’s Eagles).

In her free time, she enjoys reading, classical music, visits with her  children and grandchildren, and time with her husband, Ted, Dean of the Honors College at the University of Texas at Dallas. She looks forward to expanding her collection of commemorative thimbles, which represents the cities in which she has done work to help patients become Healthy Survivors.

Most Popular Topics:


Healing Hope: The Promise of Healthy Survivorship

If you’re facing a cancer-related challenge, people tell you to have hope. How are you supposed to find that hope? Long-time cancer survivor Wendy S. Harpham, MD shares her hard-earned wisdom about finding and nourishing hope that helps you live your best life. Since the release of her latest book, Healing Hope, this innovative and inspiring talk has been her most-requested keynote.

Dr. Harpham coined the term “Healthy Survivor” for survivors who get good care and live as fully as possible. You’ll never think about hope the same way after hearing Dr. Harpham discuss what hope is, how hope works and which hopes are healing hopes—namely hopes that foster Healthy Survivorship.

Happiness in a Storm: Embracing Life as a Healthy Survivor

While dealing with her own chronic lymphoma, Dr. Wendy Harpham coined the term “Healthy Survivor” for any patient who (1) gets good care and (2) lives as fully as possible.

This has been Dr. Harpham most popular keynote.Using personal stories and humor, she offers practical philosophy and science-based knowledge that helps patients obtain quality care and live well after a diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness. Dr. Harpham illustrates how patients can find happiness despite illness and, sometimes, even because of it.


When a Parent has Cancer, What About the Children?

Dr. Wendy Harpham is the author of the award-winning book set—When a Parent has Cancer and its companion children’s book, Becky and the Worry Cup. In this keynote, Harpham uses personal stories to simplify many of the complex problems parents confront when balancing their own needs against those of their children. She offers helpful insights and hopeful advice, based on her belief that “The greatest gift we can give our children is not protection from the world, but the confidence and tools to cope and grow.”


Healthy Survivorship through Knowledge, Hope and Action

Healthy Survivors get good medical care and minimize the pain, debility and loss due to their illness. Through personal stories and humor, Dr. Wendy Harpham shares her three-step approach to getting good care and living as fully as possible: Obtain sound knowledge, find and nourish hope and take effective action. She demonstrates how becoming a Healthy Survivor frees patients to find happiness despite illness and, in some cases, because of it.


After Treatment Ends: Embracing Life as a Healthy Survivor

The final dose of cancer therapy may mark the end of treatment, but it does not signal the end of the cancer experience. Survivors now face the challenges of integrating unwanted changes and losses into their life after cancer. Dr. Wendy Harpham knows about these challenges from both sides of the stethoscope. In this keynote, she shares an approach to life after cancer that helps patients become Healthy Survivors, namely, survivors who get good care and live as fully as possible. She encourages survivors to find happiness despite changes and losses, and, sometimes, because of them.



Late Effects: What’s a Survivor to Do?

Surviving cancer is a modern phenomenon thanks to progress in diagnosis and treatment. unfortunately, this success has been won at some cost: Ongoing and/or new medical problems are common after completion of treatment. Dr. Harpham provides a brief, clear overview of the biology of late effects and develops a healthy, hopeful framework for integrating the reality of late effects into life after cancer.


The Healing Power of Clinical Trials

Physician-survivor Dr. Wendy Harpham has benefited from the progress and hope of clinical trials. After briefly reviewing fundamentals about clinical trials, she shares personal stories from her survivorship journey that portray the challenges and emotions that can arise while participating in a clinical trial. You will understand why she believes clinical trials are healing medicine.


Resolving the Frustration of Fatigue

For many patients, fatigue is an invisible wound that poses a great challenge to finding a healthy “new Normal” after completion of treatment. Dr. Harpham’s experiences on both sides of the stethoscope have taught her healthy ways to deal with the thoughts, feelings and practical problems that tired survivors face. She shares her insights and tips for resolving the frustration of fatigue.


Living with Chronic Pain: Embracing Life as a Healthy Survivor

Healthy Survivors get good care and live as fully as possible. As both a physician and a cancer patient, Dr. Harpham has experienced how chronic pain can make it difficult to do either. Here she shares an approach to living with pain that helps patients think about and respond to pain in healing ways. She offers insights and practical tips for talking about pain with members of the healthcare team, with loved ones, in social settings and in their own heads with themselves.



Healing Hope: The Promise of Healthy Survivorship

Hope drives patients’ actions and affects their quality of life. Yet clinicians receive little formal instruction on how to address patients’ hope. In this thought-provoking and inspiring presentation, Dr. Harpham explores what hope is and how hope helps patients.  From her useful perspective as physician and longterm cancer survivor, Harpham offers practical insights and tips about the clinician’s role in guiding patients to healing hope–namely hope that helps patients live their best life.

Harpham coined the term “Healthy Survivor” for survivors who get good care and live as fully as possible. Talking with patients about hope in the context of Healthy Survivorship will help you fulfill your mission of providing expert and compassionate care.

Happiness in a Storm: The Challenge of Healing the Cancer Patient

Since the publication of Happiness in a Storm, this has been Dr. Harpham most popular keynote for professional audiences. From her shared background in the care of patients, she offers you insights and advice for guiding your patients to quality care and supporting your patients’ pursuit of happiness in the face of adversity. Dr. Harpham will inform, entertain and inspire, exploring not only how to improve the lives of your patients but also how to care for yourself. [CEU information available on request.]


Preserving Compassion: The Promise of Healthy Survivorship

A variety of forces are driving a wedge between modern clinicians and patients. From her useful perspective as a physician-patient, Dr. Harpham explores ways to overcome the challenges to compassion in modern medicine. She offers words and actions that take you only seconds yet can make a world of difference for your patients — and for you.


Clinical Trials: Healing Medicine

Physician-survivor Wendy Harpham has benefited from the progress and hope of clinical trials. In this keynote she shares personal stories from her experiences as a subject in early-phase trials to illustrate the challenges and emotions patients face when considering or participating in a clinical trial. You will understand why she believes clinical trials are healing medicine.


Talking with Patients About Phase I Clinical Trials

The conversation with patients about a Phase I Trial as a treatment option is frought with emotional and ethical challenges. Dr. Harpham developed the BEST MED approach to decision making that can help clinicians . Here, using this approach, she discusses key issues involved in talking with patients about Phase I trials. She offers ideas and phrases that may help patients overcome the obstacles to making informed decisions in keeping with their values.

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