A match made in heaven. That is how Dr. Edward Hannigan describes his position at the Cancer Center at Renaissance.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hannigan earned a bachelor of science from Texas A&M and his MD from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He completed an internal medicine residency at UTMB-Galveston and an obstetrics and gynecology residency at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. A gynecologic oncology fellowship landed Hannigan at MD Anderson Tumor Institute in Houston from 1979-1981.
Since 1977, Hannigan has been affiliated with UTMB-Galveston teaching and practicing medicine. He currently serves as a Frances Eastland Connally Professor in Gynecologic Oncology, is Associate Vice Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Director of their Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship Program, and a professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Radiation Oncology.
Hannigan’s extensive curriculum vitae includes membership in several professional organizations, publications in prestigious journals, such as American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Gynecologic Oncology, and a number of grants he has been awarded. Texas Monthly chose Hannigan as a Texas Super Doctor in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
In 1992, UTMB opened a dysplasia clinic within the walls of El Milagro Clinic in McAllen, and Dr. Hannigan came here on a regular basis to treat patients at the clinic; however, UTMB closed the clinic in December of 2008 after the devastation of Hurricane Ike caused massive cost-cutting measures. (In October of this year, UTMB and Doctors’ Hospital at Renaissance teamed up to re-open the clinic. UTMB Cancer Stop and Dysplasia Clinic at Renaissance is located at 620 S. Broadway in McAllen and treats women at-risk for female cancers or sexually transmitted diseases and women with high risk pregnancies due to conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Most of these women are indigent.)
When the clinic closed, it left a void in the care of women with gynecological cancer. DHR had recently opened its Women’s Hospital at Renaissance. Hospital directors contacted Hannigan about entering a partnership to serve women in the Rio Grande Valley. Hannigan accepted, and thus began his “match made in heaven.”
DHR built an office for Hannigan within the Cancer Center at Renaissance, with treatment rooms in a U-shape from that office. A nurse’s station stands within the U. Dr. Hannigan travels to McAllen twice a month, operating on Wednesdays and Thursdays and seeing patients in the clinic all day Friday. He sees women with ovarian masses suspected of being cancerous, endometrial (uterine) cancer, cancer of the vulva, early cervical cancer and other forms of gynecological cancer.
“My relationship with Renaissance has given women in the Rio Grande Valley the opportunity to receive state-of-the-art care without having to drive to San Antonio, Austin or Houston,” Hannigan said. “The genesis of this relationship was in their court. I have been very impressed with the doctors in the Rio Grande Valley and the equipment available at Renaissance.”
That equipment includes two linear accelerators for external beam radiation therapy and a 16-slice CT scanner, both of which Hannigan refers to as the best available for patients with cancer.
At the Cancer Center at Renaissance, Hannigan joins three medical oncologists, Dr. Eugenio Galindo, Dr. Ghanem Daghestani and Dr. Satish Desai, one radiation oncologist, Dr. Oscar Garcia, and one urologic oncologist, Dr. Dipen Parekh. DHR’s team approach allows them to provide minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery, intra-operative radiation therapy, robotic surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Hannigan is overwhelmed by how busy he has been since taking on his new role as gynecological oncologist for the Cancer Center at Renaissance and attributes much of that to the awareness within the medical community. They know it is critical for women diagnosed with carcinoma of the cervix, ovary or endometrium to see a gynecological oncologist.
“The local medical community is very smart, and they do a very good job,” Hannigan said. “They are very interested in their patients.”
Hannigan is passionate about his work in McAllen, though it comes second to his greatest passion, which is teaching Principles of Medicine to first year medical students.
“I get to teach them about the ethics of medicine, about telling the truth and how to talk to patients,” he said. “We cover active listening, too. Just yesterday we talked about the Terri Schiavo case. Teaching this class is the most fun thing I do.” Hannigan’s students often accompany him to the Valley to further their training.
Hannigan stresses that women can protect themselves from advanced gynecological cancers. “First, of course,” he said, “is to have annual pap smears. They are a true intervention, and it is clear women live longer as a result. The same goes for regular mammograms.” (He added colonoscopies are also critical, though they do not fall in the category of gynecology.) Hannigan said it is unfortunate there are no such proven methods of detecting endometrial and ovarian cancer in their early stages but said doctors know birth control pills decrease the risk of ovarian cancer regardless of the length of time they are taken.
Hannigan encourages women who have two first-degree relatives (parent/sibling) with breast or ovarian cancer to consider genetic testing to determine if they inherited the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Women diagnosed with cancer at an early age should also consider this testing, he said.
Dr. Edward Hannigan … doctor and teacher … now serving women in the Rio Grande Valley.