This local oncologist emphasizes the importance of holistic cancer treatment.
“You have cancer” is not something anyone wants to hear. But worse, still, is asking, “Doctor, what can I do?” and being told “Nothing.” Dr. Ashish Udhrain, who joined East Jefferson General Hospital this year as leader of the Hematology/Oncology department, gives cancer patients a different answer to that question.
Born in New Delhi, Dr. Udhrain moved to New Hampshire with his family before he started high school. “Ever since I was a little boy, I had an interest in health and healing people,” he says. His aunt’s death from leukemia also piqued his interest in medicine and stimulated his commitment to the treatment of cancer as a disease affecting not only individuals, but whole families.
Dr. Udhrain earned his medical degree at Ross University, going on to complete his internship in internal medicine at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, and completing his residency at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where he was chief medical resident. Like many medical residents, he hadn’t yet discovered a specialty he truly loved — until his oncology rotation.
“[In oncology], you treat not just the patient, but the family as a whole,” he says. “Having gone through that from a family standpoint in the past, it turned out to be my calling.” He completed a fellowship in hematology and oncology at Tulane University School of Medicine, where he discovered his love for New Orleans.
Dr. Udhrain spent the year following his fellowship as part of the oncology team at West Jefferson Medical Center. Then, he met Dr. Keith Block, who runs The Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment near Chicago. Through Dr. Block, Dr. Udhrain discovered a more comprehensive way to fight cancer; he soon moved to Illinois to join The Block Center team.
“What we practiced was a holistic approach to cancer patients,” Dr. Udhrain says. In addition to chemotherapy and other medical care, The Block Center patients receive mental-health support for anxiety and depression; nutritional guidance; and wellness services, like acupuncture and massage therapy. “I wanted to be able to tell my patients: ‘There are things you can do to play an active role in your care,’” he says.
This whole-body approach results in cancer patients who sleep better, suffer fewer emotional side effects and are able to tolerate their chemotherapy treatments for longer. “Stress, anxiety and depression can raise blood pressure and cause ulcers in the stomach,” Dr. Udhrain says. “It’s naïve of us to think that the unrest of the mind has no effect on cancer growth. My two years in Chicago really opened my eyes. I did my research and verified what we were doing.”
When Dr. Udhrain learned that East Jefferson was searching for a new leader for its Hematology/Oncology department, he knew returning to New Orleans would be his next step. Now, he’s sharing his philosophy with colleagues and the community. “There’s overwhelming evidence to support integrative therapies in oncology,” he says. “I truly have a holistic approach to caring for cancer patients.”
As part of his return to New Orleans, Dr. Udhrain and his family are enjoying being part of the culture here once again. “We love the city,” he says. “We’re New Orleanians at heart. It was like a homecoming for [us].”
DOCTOR PHILOSOPHY: “I truly believe cancer is becoming a chronic disease. It’s not a death sentence, like it’s made out to be. You just have to emotionally, physically and nutritionally prepare yourself for the long haul.”
Ashish Udhrain, M.D.
Yenni Pavilion Cancer Treatment Center
East Jefferson General Hospital
4204 Houma Blvd., 2nd Floor
Metairie, LA 70006
MEDICAL SCHOOL: Ross University School of Medicine
RESIDENCY: Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Internal Medicine
FELLOWSHIPS: Tulane University School of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology
BOARD CERTIFICATIONS: Hematology, Medical Oncology, Internal Medicine