Dr. Mary De Shields Retires After More Than Three Decades in Cancer Care
Mary De Shields, MD has retired as Medical Director, Shore Medical Group – Oncology after 23 years caring for patients of the Cancer Program at UM Shore Regional Health.
Dr. De Shields’ arrival on the Mid-Shore began as the result of a visit to the area in 1997 with her husband, Dennis De Shields, MD, to attend his grandfather’s funeral at Union Baptist Church in Easton. The funeral was attended by members of the Shore Health Board of Directors whom the De Shields family met and talked with. A few weeks later, they were invited by the SRH senior leaders to visit and ultimately, to consider joining the hospital team. Within a year’s time, in June 1998, they came on board — Mary De Shields, MD, as Medical Director of Oncology (in anticipation of the retirement of Cancer Program founder Stephen Carney, MD) and Dennis De Shields, MD, as a hospital physician to help build the newly-formed Hospitalist Program.
Reflecting on her tenure with UM Shore Regional Health, Dr. De Shields takes particular pride in the Cancer Program’s engagement in research trials. A grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation funded a part-time research nurse working under her direction for several years, and more recently, support and funding from UM SRH and the University of Maryland Medical System allowed the program to expand to include a full-time research nurse and access to a wider array of research trials. Today, the Cancer Program offers access to clinical trials for patients diagnosed with breast, endometrial, colorectal, oral/pharynx, lung and prostate cancer.
“I wanted our patients to have access to tomorrow’s treatment advances today,” said Dr. De Shields. “Research trials open opportunities for patients to access treatments that might be ‘breakthrough’ today but the standard of care in the future. Our participation in clinical trials also raises the bar, in terms of quality care, because clinical trials are governed by very stringent regulations.”
Another point of pride for Dr. De Shields is the Cancer Program’s establishment of the Multidisciplinary Tumor Board, which includes medical oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, oncology RNs, and advanced practice nurses who review new cancer cases. The interdisciplinary team of nurse navigators and social workers alert the team to potential social factors that often add complexity to caring for patients. "Together, we come to an understanding of what the patient needs and we are on the same page when communicating with the patient. This collaboration raises the standard of care as it supports the development and monitoring of an optimal treatment plan for each patient that is specifically tailored to his or her case,” she said.
Along with expanded access to clinical trials, the establishment of the Tumor Board helped the Cancer Center maintain accreditation by the American College of Surgeons (ACoS), which requires meeting many standards of care. “The University of Maryland Shore Regional Cancer Center is an exceptional community program and has steadily met the national standards established by ACoS, and that progress over the past 23 years has been very gratifying,” said Dr. De Shields. “Our community can be confident that high quality cancer care is delivered at the Cancer Center.”
Most gratifying of all, Dr. De Shields said, has been her interactions with colleagues and patients. “The entire Cancer Center team is professional, cohesive and dedicated – and also very kind, creating a care environment that is truly exceptional. I learned so much from my patients and their family members – seeing their resilience, perseverance and courage in the face of what is probably the scariest news of their lifetime. It’s been a pleasure to serve.”
“Dr. De Shields has embodied what Shore Medical Group strives to be, patient first and the leader of health care on the Eastern Shore,” said Timothy Shanahan, DO, Medical Director of University of Maryland Shore Medical Group. “She has touched countless patient lives through her many years of service. She has laid the foundation for that legacy to continue for years to come. She will be missed. We wish her nothing but the best in this new chapter of her life.”