1. What drew you to this role? Describe your strategic planning process and the short- and long-term outcomes you hope to achieve at the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.
I was drawn to the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes because they offer the rare potential to design a truly integrated and patient-centered approach to cancer care and research.
In the short term, we want to determine the needs of cancer patients, survivors and caregivers and apply that to a cancer care strategy and a comprehensive research program at Dell Medical School. We have organized six working committees that include local oncologists, members of the cancer care support community and cancer researchers across The University of Texas at Austin. Their charge is to help us tackle this work.
In the long term, we’re hoping to develop a novel care delivery model that is truly patient-centered and one in which personalized or precision medicine research is optimized for patient outcome. In a way, you could look at the institutes as a regional incubator that will help determine best practices that can be exported locally and beyond.
2. What will distinguish the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes from other cancer institutes at academic medical centers throughout the country?
Given that Dell Med is brand new, we have the opportunity to redesign the way cancer care is delivered. We hope to provide holistic cancer care that offers patients the support they need — not only medically, but also mentally, emotionally and even financially — in one place, without sending them to a dozen different specialists and support resources.
Also, we are the only academic cancer institute that has a partnership with LIVESTRONG, whose work in the last 20 years has provided an unparalleled understanding of the greatest challenges cancer patients face. We are designing our clinical model around the expressed needs, preferences and values of patients and their families, in consultation with LIVESTRONG, the UT Austin School of Social Work, local providers and other cancer support organizations.
3. What makes UT Austin uniquely positioned to contribute to cancer research on a national stage?
UT Austin has incredible breadth and depth, with more than 50 researchers conducting cancer investigation in fields such as DNA damage and repair, systems immunology and the tumor microenvironment, novel drug development and computational imaging, among others. The LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes intend to leverage this outstanding science towards therapeutic strategies for cancer patients and to facilitate collaborations between bench scientists and clinicians.
The institutes will also bring in expertise around relevant preclinical models and early clinical trials. We plan to recruit outside investigators to expand our expertise in target areas.
4. Why is Dell Med the right setting for the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes?
Dell Med’s mission to revolutionize how people get and stay healthy, in part by creating a model for value-based health care, aligns perfectly with the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes’ vision of patient-centered and compassionate care accessible by all.
At Dell Med, there’s a focus on creating multidisciplinary teams of providers organized around conditions — what we call integrated practice units (IPUs) — that require physicians and allied health professionals to achieve genuine person-centered diagnosis and treatment. These IPUs also incorporate a full slate of patient-support services — including professionals in behavioral health, social work, palliative care, nutrition, care management and navigation, and financial counseling — which are often absent in communities like Austin. Our goal is to eliminate the need for patients to navigate across multiple specialties, services and locations. This is the perfect opportunity for the institutes to redesign and reinvigorate cancer care delivery.
5. What are the most immediate cancer care needs in Travis County?
Areas that the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes intend to initially address will be disease-focused cancer care, clinical trials and patient access. We are in the process of designing comprehensive disease-based multidisciplinary tumor boards and clinics that will be conducted in collaboration with community providers. We will also bring in novel clinical trials as part of our NCI Phase I grant and are working on a new model of better access for underfunded/unfunded patients that will allow treatment closer to home. Other initiatives, such as a clinic for young adult cancer patients (ages 18-25) and the development of a robust and comprehensive palliative care program, are also in the planning stages.
6. What do you hope you’ll have achieved two decades from now?
Success will come in various forms. Building a comprehensive cancer center that is connected to the community through patient-centered care and access to quality care is crucial. And by creating a seamless transition between UT Austin research and the clinical setting, we can provide an additional component to the fight against cancer that Austin has been has been lacking for quite some time.
I hope that what we consider revolutionary now — truly value-based, patient-centered care — will be commonplace in 20 years and that we will have eradicated all preventable cancers.