UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Winter 2018 2018 Volume XXXIII Number 3 - Page 8

populations. Because frankly, not a lot of underserved populations walk in the door of Mass General. But when I compare that to what is going on at UAB, it is just standard procedure here that 20-30 percent of the population is African American or Latino. To me, this was an added bonus. For someone who has cared for cancer patients for 30 years to then expand that to patients who might spend their entire cancer experience without seeing a clinical trial, it is really rewarding. Hitting the Ground Running In the six months Dr. Birrer has been here, he has been getting to know Birmingham and all the entities that make the UAB Cancer Center work. Beyond onboarding and managing a heavy administrative schedule, Dr. Birrer is also seeing patients. In fact, what sealed the deal for him was in addition to being director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, he will also be heading up the cancer service line, giving him the opportunity to directly impact the decisions affecting patient care. Q: What does it mean to have this added role to your position as director? A: I cannot stress enough how important it is. Most cancer center directors are not involved in the service line. Cancer care for the patients in the hospital is completely off their radar, and they have next to no ability to impact that care. This approach is what limits the effectiveness of many cancer centers. We will not suffer from that if we design the cancer service line correctly, and I will be in charge of that. Q: What are the areas that you want to improve? A: I think there’s two major clinical directions. One is expanding on and perfecting the clinical care of cancer patients at the UAB Cancer Center. We need more people when it comes to expert clinicians for multiple different disease sites, so we will be doing a lot of aggressive hiring in terms of building teams that can effectively treat cancer patients. Breast health clinic does it quite well here so we will model it on that. We want a multidisciplinary team: a surgeon, a clinical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, to see our patients. Patients want an expert in their field. If they have lung cancer, they don’t want to be seeing a breast cancer doctor, they want an expert for their specific cancer, and they want the opinions of experts who come at the disease from different angles — surgery, radiation, and medicine. We will also be expanding our precision oncology effort, conducting genetic tumor profiling for cancer patients to find the best therapeutic option for them. We are doing some of 6 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R it but not all of it. I would like to have some of the molecular genotyping done in house. Right now, we have three different platforms, and they all work in different ways. I do think the optimal approach is to have a robust genomic platform sitting right at UAB. I would certainly continue the relationships we have built, but the long-term vision would be that we would supply it ourselves. If we developed this platform at UAB, it could theoretically be used throughout the state of Alabama and become the center for the South. Q: How about from a research standpoint? A: I think there will be a serious effort to increase our bench strength. If you look at some of our programs like inflammation, immunology, and immunotherapy, there is great science but it isn’t deep in terms of personnel. So we need to hire more people, we can’t have programs where if one person leaves the program, it then disappears. So we are going to work on that. Cancer prevention is a diamond in the rough here. Most cancer prevention programs tend to be “fluffy science” and people don’t believe it, but that’s not true here. It is not very common that cancer centers have a very robust drug discovery program, and we FW&RBT"vFFRVb6WFW&&W6V&6&G'VrF66fW'Ɩ6RBW"FW"'FW'62vRvBF6FVPFV6W&vRB7W'BW"WW&VFFW&WWF70&w&vB&RW"'GVFW2FVGV6FRW&SFR'GVFW2FVGV6FRW&RBT"&PWFV6fRFR66W"6VFW"G6Vb2V&W"b&w&0f"WG&V6v6&R'F7V&ǒ&VWfBf"VFW'6W'fV@