Marathon Man or Super Surveyor? -A One on One with Thomas L. Eisenhauer, MD, FACS


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When Tom Eisenhauer was born, they simply “broke the mold,” there will never be another human being like him.  He is a mixture of intelligence, charisma, passion, reason, ingenuity and dedication in the war on cancer.  Whether he is in the operating room as a general surgeon, surveying a program for the Commission on Cancer (CoC), running a marathon for the American Cancer Society or presenting as an invited guest at the National Cancer Registars Association, he is a true advocate for all in the war on cancer.

Registry Partners Incorporated had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Eisenhauer and find out more about the man who has a continuous drive to make a difference.

If you had the opportunity to hear his presentation on The Survey Process at the recent NCRA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas then you know why people were literally standing in line to hear what more he had to say after his talk to a ballroom full of people.

He is an honors graduate of the medical school at the University of South Carolina and ultimately specialized as a general surgeon currently practicing near Asheville,  North Carolina.  He is married to his wife, Kim who is a speech pathologist and they have four children, Ashley, Joshua, Jessica and Lilly, not to forget their toy poodle named Hershey.  Dr. Eisenhauer is an outdoorsman and running enthusiast.  He along with his running partner (Kim) participate in marathons whenever possible which allows him to include his other favorite hobby of traveling.

On a professional level, as part of the American College of Surgeons Fellowship, he volunteers his time with the CoC serving as Chairman of the Field Staff Subcommittee that oversees, the training and performance of all the CoC Surveyors.  He is well versed on the 2012 Cancer Program Standards as one of the many contributors to the standards.  As the leader of the surveyor team, he involves himself directly in their annual training.  In advising the programs that he surveys he recommends program s not focus on the past, but to learn from the past to improve their future.  He cannot stress enough how important it is for programs and committee participants to READ the standards, noting they are not that difficult to understand.  He notes a pattern in programs who receive a deficiency is because only the CTR reads and reviews the standards.

He became a surveyor for the Commission on Cancer in 2006 in efforts to improve oncology care and outcomes for patients across the United States.  He enjoys the travel and seeing how other cancer programs function.  Performing an on-site survey gives him the opportunity to see if a program is a true multidisciplinary effort.   He spends about 12 hours preparing for a survey before arriving on the facility campus.  Dr. Eisenhauer loves the opportunity to meet so many different people and has been able to travel as far as Hawaii to survey a program.

Occasionally, he is challenged by  a complacent program or a mediocre program that are only “getting by” because of the hard work of one or few staff members.   He tries to take the survey opportunity to gain the interest of the Cancer Program/Hospital Administrator and medical staff to help gain the backing and support the rest of the program may require to improve a current stale state.

Dr. Eisenhauer tells us the most rewarding part of being a CoC surveyor is his role as a mentor and trainer for other Surveyors  and to educate and share techniques during their annual training.

The one little secret about Tom Eisenhauer we were able to delve into is his competitiveness and love for sports.  He said “I hate to lose, I love sports and competition.  I always wanted to be great at something sports related.  I am reasonably good,  at a lot of different sports, but not great at one particular sport.  Although, at my age, it is probably better to be able to do a lot of different things reasonably  well than to think that I could still play competitive hockey or soccer.  OH! I still ride my unicycle.”

In our opinion, Dr. Eisenhauer is GREAT at the sport of surveying!  He truly is a Super Surveyor and we couldn’t imagine him on any other team than the Commission on Cancer!