UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine E-Edition 2017 - Page 5

Q: How would you describe the UAB Health System Cancer Community Network that you helped establish? A: I think the UAB Health System Cancer Community Network has the potential to have a major impact on Alabama and the region. With the network, we have the ability to work together, at both the administrative and physician level, to utilize and share data to improve quality and resource utilization for cancer patients. You can foresee the day that by working together we can assure that every individual in the region with cancer will get the right care at the right place at the right time. Unexpected turns on the career path Q: As a trained physician, were you always interested in research? A: I spent my first 11 years in private practice as a gynecological oncologist here in Birmingham, doing the usual routine of performing surgery, prescribing and administering chemotherapy, and taking care of patients. But I had the opportunity during those years to continue in education and training of medical students, residents, and fellows. I was invited to become the director of the UAB Division of Gynecologic Oncology out of private practice with no real experience in the academic setting, except for my training 10 years prior to that. I was interested more in the education and clinical practice. I never intended to be a researcher, but when I returned to the university I had several great mentors like Al LoBuglio, Bob Goldenberg, John Hauth, and Michael Brooks who taught me how to become a successful researcher. Q: How did you pick up these skills so quickly? A: The thing that was unusual was that I was a GYN-oncologist, not an epidemiologist or a statistician. To move into cancer prevention and control was an unusual career step in those days. During my time in private practice, I volunteered with the American Cancer Society and was active in the Alabama Chapter of the American College of Surgeons — both organizations focused on cancer prevention and control. I think it was those opportunities that pushed me in this direction. A few years after I got to UAB, Albert LoBuglio, the second Cancer Center director, recognized I had the connections across the community and had developed some expertise in prevention and control. He gave me the opportunity to form collaborations with epidemiologists, behaviorists, statisticians, and other individuals in Preventive Medicine like Mona Fouad and Isabel Scarinci. I was able to pull together the collaborative groups that brought unique skill sets to the program. Q: Would you say one of your strengths is developing partnerships? A: Yes, I was really a jack of all trades and a master of none. I did clinical trials; I’ve led SPOREs (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) and conducted translational research. I’ve led education and training programs, creating partnerships with Morehouse School of Medicine and Tuskegee University — the results of that have been remarkable in how we’ve increased the research capacity of those institutions. Although my expertise is not translational research, in the past five years we’ve put the infrastructure in place to develop the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance, the Center for Genomic Medicine, the Molecular Tumor Board, and the Phase I clinical trials program. That has placed us in a great position to be a leader in translational research and precision medicine, using genomic information to direct our care. “I think the With our consortium with HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and our continued work with the Mitchell Cancer Institute, I hope that one day we have a three-institution consortium that involves all the major institutions that are delivering cancer care in Alabama working together. UAB Health The future of cancer care a major impact Q: What do we still need to work on? A: Health disparities are still significant. That work is going to have to continue, but I think we will approach it differently. The future I see is that we will all have access. Eventually, everyone in the United States will have insurance coverage. We are not going to be the only developed country in the world that does not provide health coverage for all of our citizens. Therefore, it is no longer an access problem — it is an education and income issue. I think the next steps are learning more about the social determinants of health, such as your zip code, which can be more important than your genetic code in terms of outcomes. We are not going to be able to suddenly end poverty and end the problems with education, though it would be a good start. Therefore, we have to work around the social determinants of health, at least in the short term. # K N O W U A B C C C • System Cancer Community Network has the potential to have on Alabama and the region.” U A B . E D U / C A N C E R 5