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The one hundred honoree: Kelly E. Irwin, MD

Profile in Medicine

The one hundred honoree: Kelly E. Irwin, MD

Mass General Giving

Kelly Irwin, MD, is playing a major role in shaping the way that today’s healthcare system works with cancer patients who suffer from severe mental illness.

As a psychiatrist in the Mass General Center for Psychiatric Oncology and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Irwin is keenly aware of the gap between cancer care and mental health care. To help close that gap, she served as the principal investigator on a pilot study for patients with severe mental illness and a new cancer diagnosis. Throughout the study, many patients who may have never received cancer treatment were able to consent to treatment and complete it.

This study, along with other key research initiated by Dr. Irwin, has made significant inroads in addressing the needs of severely mentally ill patients. Amy Corveleyn, MSW, a case manager on one of Dr. Irwin’s studies, has seen this impact first hand: “Dr. Irwin is changing the culture of our cancer center. This new care model, which allows for collaboration between oncology, psychiatry, case management and most critically, the patient, is groundbreaking work based on her intensive research and patient care.”

And when it comes to patient care, Amy reflects that the expertise of Dr. Irwin is only equaled by her concern for people: “I’ve witnessed patients who did not want any treatment at all not only start treatment, but also complete it because of her dedication and compassion. She reaches people who do not want to be reached, and she’s able to make them feel heard and understood.”