From start to finish.

Dr. Emmanuel Zervos isn’t the type of physician who just breezes in the operating room, does his part of the job, and then leaves. He is a physician who willingly joins with other cancer care experts to take a team approach to treating, and hopefully curing, cancer patients.

Dr. Emmanuel Zervos wanted to be a transplant surgeon, but something happened in the middle of his surgical residency that changed his mind.

His dad was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor. His interest was then diverted from transplant surgery to surgical oncology.

When he was considering his profession some 20 years ago, there was a revolution happening in the surgical field, Zervos said. The extent of surgeon-patient interaction was limited. Patients visited the surgeon usually once before the surgery and once after the surgery. Surgical oncology, Zervos said, was the exception.

“In surgical oncology, the surgeon was the leader of the care team. They were involved in the beginning, during the surgery of course, and in post-op care and treatment,” he said. “It flew against the trend of the surgeon serving in purely a technical capacity and being more removed from the patient.”

Zervos recalls a patient, who had a previous surgery, coming into his office. “They had surgery five years ago but couldn’t remember their surgeon’s name,” he said. “That, to me, was a failure of our profession.”

Zervos believes surgical oncologists impact patient’s lives more than any other specialty. “We really do have the opportunity to cure a patient of cancer,” he said. “We are perhaps the only specialty to make that claim.” It’s been exciting to work in cancer care over the last 10-15 years, Zervos said, because medical professionals have embraced the team concept. We understand outcomes are best when we work together,” he said. “Part of working together means we understand the strengths and weaknesses of our individual specialties. We understand the limits of our facility and we understand our patients and the unique challenges they face. We use what is available to us. We work toward a cure and toward making sure the cancer doesn’t come back.”

At the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower in Greenville, cancer teams have regular meetings to discuss patient care.

“We meet as a group. We discuss the patient’s treatment plan as a group. We may even argue about the treatment plan or sequence of interventions as a group. And what we come up with is a plan – a consensus. We come up with a plan that will work and have the desired outcome.”

Zervos has been a doctor for more than 20 years. He’s been an attending surgeon for 13 years, and has been in Greenville for almost eight years. He can look back on his career and recall most of his patients and their stories.

“We remember them, good and bad. They tell us that we are their heroes. The truth is, they are ours. They allow us to apply the special talents with which we have been blessed.”

Zervos is excited about the commitment ECU Health has made for the future of cancer care with the addition of the new cancer tower on the Greenville campus.

“We already provide great care with limited resources,” he said. “Now we are going to have a facility that is going to be commensurate with the people who practice in it.”

All the little things that make the journey easier will be a part of the new facility. “It will be an awesome environment for physicians and patients. Spirits will be uplifted and it will be a fitting symbol of what we are doing,” Zervos said.