Faces of ONCOTALK

About the Faculty

Anthony Back, MD
Robert Arnold, MD
Walter Baile, MD
James Tulsky, MD
Kelly Fryer-Edwards, MA PhD


  • Anthony Back, MD- (Principal investigator) is Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is Director of the Program in Cancer Communication at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC). He is a board-certified medical oncologist whose primary research interests are doctor-patient communication and palliative care, and he practices gastrointestinal oncology. Dr. Back was a Faculty Scholar on the Project on Death in America and is a member of the ASCO Communication Task Force. He is the Principal Investigator the Oncotalk communication skills training program for Medical Oncology fellows (R25 CA 92055), and is an investigator on other NIH-funded observational studies of doctor-patient communication about hope and information (R01 PI J.R. Curtis) and prognosis in hematologic malignancies (R01 P.I. Stephanie Lee).


  • Robert Arnold, MD - (Investigator) is the Leo H. Criep Professor and Director of the Institute for Doctor-Patient Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently President of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Arnold has focused his career on improving communication skills at the end of life. He obtained a Project on Death in America grant to train oncologists to teach others to communicate with patients at the end of life. He also directs a required course for internal medicine interns on giving bad news and discussing advance care planning, and developed a new faculty development course for General Internal Medicine fellows aimed at communication skills. He is an investigator on an NCI-funded grant designed to investigate oncologist communication at the end of life (R01, PI Tulsky).


  • Walter Baile, MD - (Investigator) is Professor of Psychiatry at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and is an internationally known expert on cancer communication. He is a regular speaker at the Educational Sessions at ASCO Annual Meetings on Communication, and published a CD-ROM set entitled "A Practical Guide to Communication Skills in Clinical Practice". He is the Chairman of the Task Force on Physician-Patient Communication for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. He has led communication courses in the US, Japan, Germany, and Italy for oncologists.


  • James Tulsky, MD - (Investigator) is Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Palliative Care at Duke University. He has pioneered content-based coding systems for analyzing communication between physicians and patients, and has led the analysis of the standardized patient encounters for Oncotalk. He is currently PI on an R01 designed to investigate oncologist communication at the end of life (R01CA10387), and in 2002 was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. In December 2004, he discussed Doctor-Patient Communication at the NIH State of the Science Conference on Palliative Care.


  • Kelly Fryer-Edwards, MA PhD - (Investigator) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History and Ethics, University of Washington School of Medicine, and School of Public Health. Her work focuses on improving teaching and learning in areas of communication, ethics and professionalism, and she has led faculty development in Professionalism for a major revision of the medical student curriculum at the University of Washington. She is an investigator on an HRSA-funded study of faculty development around genetics curricula in primary care, and PI for a CDC-funded project targeting cancer screening decisions. Dr. Fryer-Edwards has used mixed methods approaches for needs assessment, educational research and studies of provider practice behaviors. She led the qualitative analysis of effective teaching behaviors for Oncotalk and provides feedback to the faculty about their teaching during the retreat.