Recap: Medical Outreach’s 2019 Achievements and 2020 Goals

The Mesothelioma Center's Jose Ortiz and Missy Miller

The Medical Outreach team at The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com tours the country’s top hospitals and cancer centers to establish relationships and learn about treatment advances from leading mesothelioma doctors.

Our team’s efforts helped to develop our Doctor Match program. It connects patients to doctors and cancer centers that specialize in the kind of mesothelioma treatment the patient needs.

In 2019 alone, we made 61 new connections with medical professionals who treat mesothelioma. This year, we will focus on making more of those connections and finding new ways that we can help patients and families coping with this aggressive disease.

Our team also attends medical conferences every year to learn more about cancer care and find new ways to meet the needs of the patients we serve.

We saw a lot of focus on multidisciplinary treatment and a holistic approach to patient care attending these conferences in 2019. This was encouraging to see because we know firsthand how much of an impact these approaches can have in patient outcomes.

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Medical Conferences Improved Our Knowledge and Connections

Our Medical Outreach team attended six conferences in 2019 to improve our connections within the mesothelioma community and to expand our knowledge, skills and resources so we can better serve patients and families.

Conferences Attended in 2019

  • Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators (AONN+) Midyear Conference in San Diego
  • AONN+ Navigation and Survivorship Conference in Nashville, Tennessee
  • International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in Bethesda, Maryland
  • International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s Mesothelioma Meeting in New York
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago
  • Friends of the Fisher House Conference in Orlando, Florida

It was encouraging to see many of the conferences focus on how to better impact patients in need from a complete perspective.

Some included financial navigation workshops and breakout sessions about improving collaboration and communication among different medical disciplines.

This is great because it allowed health care professionals from medical disciplines outside of lung and thoracic programs to gather and learn information to share with other team members at their hospitals as well as themselves.

The conferences also discussed how to help and build rural patient navigation. We learned from speaking with attendees that health care professionals at smaller hospitals and rural locations have a need for informational resources and services that we can provide to them.

Speakers also discussed nutritional needs of cancer patients and the importance it plays during treatment, especially prior to surgery.

Overall, it was exciting to see a shift in focus towards patients’ holistic needs when diagnosed with cancer and not just focusing on a surgical procedure or treatment plan.

It was rewarding to see this holistic focus because our team has worked to meet this need for years since we weren’t seeing it addressed by cancer centers. We are looking forward to continuing to connect patients with comprehensive medical resources that care for all aspects of their health and well-being.

Insights from Specific Conferences

It was my first time attending a Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation conference, and it was great to see the work they are doing, especially for clinical trials.

At the conferences held by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, it was nice to see new data and advances in mesothelioma treatment.

Last year was particularly exciting because for the first time in more than 15 years, a new treatment for mesothelioma was approved called Tumor Treating Fields.

Speakers at these conferences included top mesothelioma specialists from around the country. The breakouts featured discussions about types of treatment for a certain patient diagnosed with mesothelioma and data and results presented from multiple sides.

There was a lot of talk about neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy, which are medical terms for anti-cancer treatments done before and after the cornerstone of multimodal therapy (which is typically surgery for mesothelioma patients). These talks focused on whether to do it as well as when to do it.

I enjoyed learning more from experienced and passionate mesothelioma experts and seeing the ways their work impacts the lives of patients and families.

Doctors Are Focusing on Multidisciplinary Care

There was a large focus on multidisciplinary medicine and mesothelioma specialists working together to help patients.

A more holistic approach to patient care is becoming the norm.

We were able to formally meet with some new mesothelioma doctors that had moved to a new location and learn about their mesothelioma treatment programs.

Cancer centers are addressing the complex needs of individual patients, including nutrition, emotional support and financial support, and helping patients navigate insurance barriers and financial toxicities.

This is the kind of work our Medical Outreach team provides to patients and families facing a mesothelioma diagnosis, and it is great to see cancer centers trying to meet the needs of patients.

We were extremely fortunate to be listed as the resource for thoracic and lung cancer in an official Patient Guide to Cancer Support Services. This was a result of our commitment, hard work and the trust we have built over the years through our Medical Outreach team.

Our department also was the main sponsor for the Friends of the Fisher House Conference, which was held in Orlando, Florida. It was a great opportunity to show our support to this very important organization.

I was able to meet many of the Fisher House directors from around the country to discuss how we can collaborate and help families that need housing while a loved one recovers from surgery.

This is an important and exciting opportunity for us that is very close to becoming a reality.

2020 Initiatives for Our Medical Outreach Team

Our primary initiatives for 2020 are to build new relationships with mesothelioma experts, find ways to collaborate with experts to benefit patients and help make a positive impact in the mesothelioma community.

We have learned over the years that working with other members of the mesothelioma treatment team in addition to mesothelioma doctors greatly benefits patients.

Supportive team members are the ones who address the many diverse needs that patients and families have after a diagnosis, and we are proud to be able to help them overcome barriers to get the help patients need.

We also plan to make connections with smaller hospitals and cancer centers in the rural areas of the country. This will allow us to reach and impact more mesothelioma patients and provide resources that are typically not available in rural areas.

Despite the advances and great work being done in mesothelioma research and patient care, there are barriers that we must help patients overcome. Whether it is insurance appeals, access to clinical trials, help with copay assistance or legal help, we are improving our ability to identify specific needs and services that help individual patients and the entire mesothelioma medical community.

We’ve worked for many years to be a trusted resource that adds value to hospitals and cancer centers, regardless of the location or size of the medical facility.

Reaching out to mesothelioma health care professionals that are on the frontlines to ask them questions about their needs and experience is an exciting and important initiative for us in 2020.

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Medical Outreach Liaison

Jose Ortiz is the Medical Outreach Liaison for The Mesothelioma Center and a contributing author for Asbestos.com. He writes about outreach initiatives, including sponsored events and collaborations with mesothelioma specialists and cancer centers.

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