Fifth Sense spoke to Jeb Justice MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Florida, who’ll be speaking at SmellTaste2017. Here, he talks about what he’ll be covering in his lecture and what he thinks the medical profession can do for patients.
Why are smell and taste so important to you?
Smell and taste are important to me on a personal level because these senses enhance how I interact with the world. On a professional level, they’re important because I can hopefully improve the quality of life of a patient affected by these disorders, but also keep them safe, whether it be recommending strategies to label perishable foods, install smoke detectors, or find a cancer before it is too late.
Can you give us a sneak preview of what you’ll be covering in your talk?
I am going to cover how we as medical professionals approach patients with smell and taste disorders, what information we need to know from the patient, what the patient can expect to experience during the evaluation, and what are the available treatments that we can currently offer.
How do you think the medical profession can do more to help people affected by smell and taste disorders?
In my opinion, the medical profession can do a great deal more than we currently do to help patients with smell and taste disorders.
First, we need to strive for empathy, as we are finally understanding the negative impact that smell and taste disorders have on patients’ quality of life. We need to impart to the patient that we understand their frustration and that we will do our best to help them.
Second, we need to be better listeners, as historically we have not been able to do much for patients with smell and taste disorders. Our first inclination is to just order tests, labs, and radiographic scans without taking the time to hear what the patient actually has to say. Furthermore, we have to be good listeners as most of the time the key to the diagnosis is within the patient’s story/history.
Finally, we need to strive for honesty with our patients. We need to be upfront with them about the potential diagnoses, whether it is something scary like cancer or a neurodegenerative disorder, or if we just don’t know what caused the disorder.
We also need to be straightforward about the available treatments; whether we think we can help or if we have investigated as much as we can and we can’t find an answer, we need to be honest that there may be no hope for improvement. In these cases, we must still strive to support our patients and offer them strategies to keep them safe and find other resources
SmellTaste2017 represents an opportunity for people affected by smell and taste disorders to come together with clinicians, scientists and, of course, each other. What are you most looking forward to at SmellTaste2017?
I am most looking forward to the camaraderie of the meeting. The most frustrating thing for me about smell and taste disorders is that many times we can’t improve the problem for the patient, but sometimes our support and the support of patients with similar experiences can be the difference between suffering in silence and success and happiness.