Pancreas Center Spotlight on Staff: Lynette Marte-Gonzalez

by Columbia Surgery on March 24, 2013

Mission Possible: Access to Care for All.

Lynette Marte-Gonzalez joined the Pancreas Center as the New Patient Coordinator in 2010.

Lynette Marte-Gonzalez Lynette Marte-Gonzalez

In her role as the new patient coordinator, Lynette helps to make new patients’ experience at the center as easy, efficient, and smooth as possible. In particular, Lynette is on the front line of the center’s highly proactive approach to ensuring that patients receive appointments very quickly, that they see the right specialists for their health issues, that records are in order, and that any issues with insurance, language barriers, or other problems are addressed. In this interview, Lynette tells us about the Pancreas Center’s unique process and how that helps to provide the best care possible to patients with pancreatic diseases.

Q: What are some of the common difficulties patients face when seeking care?

Lynette: The most significant difficulties involve insurance, limited referrals from primary care providers, language barriers, and overall unfamiliarity and fear of navigating through the hospital system. Some patients are afraid to even call the center because they think it will take many months to get an appointment, which is completely unfounded.

Q: How do you address each of these issues? Let’s start with insurance, since that is at the top of the list.

Lynette: We see several common problems with insurance. First, readers should understand that the center includes specialists in Surgery, Interventional Gastroenterology, and Oncology (cancer treatment). In some cases, a person’s insurance may be accepted by a physician in one specialty, but not another. Medicaid is accepted by most practitioners, but not all. To address this complicated situation, we have implemented the policy of having people come for treatment regardless of their insurance policy – and we’ll find a way to make it work. Always.

Q: How are you able to provide care if insurance is not accepted or if the patient does not have insurance?

Lynette: We are creative and resourceful, and we have enough specialists available at NYP/Columbia that we can assemble the right teams to work within these constraints.

Perhaps most importantly, we have an excellent system in place in the form of our weekly multidisciplinary conference. Every Thursday, our entire team meets to discuss every new patient’s case. These meetings are directed by the Pancreas Center Director, John Chabot, MD. Many people come to the center specifically because they want to receive care from him. Even if their insurance will not work to have him as their primary surgeon, they still receive care from him in several ways. First, at our multidisciplinary conference each case is reviewed by the surgeons and physicians to determine their plan of care. Second, if surgery is required and insurance will not allow him to be the primary surgeon, he may still participate in surgery as the assistant, along with one of our other highly experienced and qualified surgeons.

In some cases, the out-of-pocket costs present a problem for patients. In these cases, the Pancreas Center will find a way to make it work. Bottom line, if a patient needs care, we find a way to provide it. If the hospital accepts the insurance at all, we can make sure the patient receives care.

Q: Tell us about the issue concerning referrals from primary care physicians.

Lynette: At the time of service some patients may require a written referral from their insurance plans. The patient may be unaware that the referral is needed, or the outside doctor may have simply not provided it, or sometimes the issue gets lost in the mix if the patient’s first language is not English. Regardless of the cause, we do the legwork by determining what is needed and obtaining the proper referral by contacting the appropriate offices.

Q: Are language barriers a common issue?

Lynette: Here in northern Manhattan, we see many patients who may not speak English or speak it well. We do several things to work with this issue. First, we have Spanish speaking staff including myself, and we will provide translators for patients who speak virtually any other language. Second, before patients come in for their appointments, we send paperwork home and give them a week or so to fill it out. We will send it by email or regular mail, whichever the patient prefers. Then, if they need the assistance of a translator to complete the forms, there is time to do this before the appointment. That way, during the appointment we can all focus on the exam, reviewing records, and determining the patient’s plan of care, without getting delayed by incomplete paperwork.

Q: Does it take a long time to get an appointment at the Pancreas Center?

Lynette: No, we make sure we schedule patients very quickly. The goal throughout NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia is to schedule patients within 14 days. At the Pancreas Center, we schedule patients to come in within 7 days, and we are striving for even better.

In many cases, the patient does not know which specialist he or she should see. My first step, therefore, is to obtain all the patient’s records and have them reviewed by our physicians. That review ensures that we make the appointment with the correct specialist who can address the person’s condition correctly.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda P. December 12, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I sent the email below to your center but am not sure who I need to contact. I have Christian Brothers Insurance and am looking for another opinion. Any information you can give me would be appreciated.
thank you!
Linda P.
Good evening,
I have been doing a lot of research on Pancreatic Cancer and Dr. Fine was recommended to us a few years back. My family has a history of Pancreatic Cancer.
Here is my family history:
Father, 54 years old. Diagnosed and passed away in 3 months
Aunt, 56 years old. Diagnosed and passed away in 6 months. Was a Diabetic
Brother, 48 years old when diagnosed and passed away at 53.
I had my gallbladder removed at 29 years old in 1984 and am a 58 year old female. I am in good health. I go for blood work and MRI’s every 6 months. The last MRI in November was clear but my Lipase level went from 40-80. I went for an EUS and they found a 5mm cyst on the head of my pancreas.
The doctor’s said they are not concerned and want to alternate MRI and EUS every 6 months.
I am interested in another opinion from someone who deals with this more often then my Doctors might.
Any information would be appreciated.
Thank you for your help.
Linda P

Columbia Surgery December 13, 2013 at 11:29 am

Hi Linda,

Thank you for reaching out to us. The Pancreas Center is dedicated to taking every step possible to help prevent, detect, and treat pancreatic cancer. We have two programs you may be interested in:

Muzzi Mirza Pancreatic Cancer Prevention & Genetics Program: this program is designed to assess a person’s individual risk based on a full genetic evaluation including family history of pancreatic cancer and other cancers, genetic screening, and other indicators. From there, our team compiles a very personalized surveillance plan. You may learn more about the program: Dr. Kastrinos, a gastroenterologist with special expertise in treating patients with inherited cancer syndromes, also completed a series of Q&A about family history’s influence on pancreatic cancer, you may view:

Pancreatic Cyst Surveillance Clinic: an extension of our Muzzi Mirza Pancreatic Cancer Prevention & Genetics Program, it’s a unique clinic specifically focused on managing pancreatic cysts so that they do not develop into cancer. You may learn more about it on our website, or in our blog article,

I encourage you to call our new patient coordinator with any questions. She will be the best person to help facilitate an appointment. You may reach her at: 212-305-9467. I hope you found this information helpful. Best regards.

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