The University of Maryland Cancer Network (UMCN) delivers state-of-the-art, patient-centered cancer care and clinical trials throughout Maryland.

Led by the NCI-designated University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC), the UMCN includes formal affiliates the Tate Cancer Center at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, the Cancer Institute at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center and the Kaufman Cancer Center at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, as well as programs in development at University of Maryland Shore Regional Health and University of Maryland Capital Region Health.

With all these sites, why is academic medicine so important when it comes to cancer care? Below, John A. Olson, Jr., MD, PhD, the Campbell and Jeanette Plugge Professor and vice chair of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the UMCN, discusses academic medicine, why it benefits patients and how the UMCN is expanding its research efforts in our communities

Q: What is academic medicine?

A: Academic medicine is distinctive in its commitment to delivering state-of-of-the-art, clinical care to current patients while improving the health and well-being of future patients through discovery and training of next-generation caregivers. As the cancer network linked to the UMGCCC, the mission of the UMCN is to deliver comprehensive, patient-centered care to Marylanders who suffer from cancer while advancing the care of cancer patients everywhere through research and education.

Q: How do cancer patients benefit from the academic medicine provided throughout the University of Maryland Cancer Network?

A: At each of our network locations, our staff is committed to delivering compassionate, state-of-the-art care for each and every one of our cancer patients. The value-add of each UMCN center's relationship with the UMGCCC is that through frequent interactions among network members, best practices are shared and newest knowledge is bidirectionally communicated. In this way, patients can be confident that they are receiving up-to-date treatment recommendations and when necessary have referral access to specialists and even more advanced treatments offered at only academic medical centers. We realize not every patient has the interest or ability to come to an academic medical center like Maryland, but the strength of the UMCN assures that when they need it, the expertise is there.

Q: How does the collaboration between the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) and other UM Cancer Network hospitals work when it comes to patient care?

A: There are several ways our UMCN specialists work together to provide cancer care. First, through monthly UMCN meetings we have created lines of communication that has facilitated transfer of knowledge and best practices in oncology. Such communication also facilitates seamless and efficient referral of patients needing specialty cancer care and access to clinical trials at UMCN sites. Specialists and multidisciplinary teams from each hospital can also collaborate on treatment recommendations. This is especially helpful for less common cancers like head and neck cancers, given UMGCCC may have more experts in this field than some of the other sites. And to further advance seamless patient care, we're developing network service lines and best practices for diseases like breast, colon and hepatobiliary cancer.

Many of our UMGCCC specialists also have privileges at other UMMS hospitals and vice versa. For example, Dr. Cherif Boutros, the medical director of the Tate Cancer Center at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, also has privileges at UMGCCC and is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Similarly, while I lead the surgical oncology group at the UMGCCC in Baltimore, I also directly care for cancer patients at UM Shore Regional and at UM St. Joseph Medical Center's Cancer Institute.

Q: What about patient access to research?

A: As part of its National Cancer Institute comprehensive status, UMGCCC is attempting to enroll at least 10 percent of patients receiving UM Cancer Network care in clinical trials. We are working with community oncologists and surgeons to prioritize and stress the importance of these investigations. It is important that we all remember that the treatments of today have been made possible by the research of yesterday. Similarly, the treatments of tomorrow only will be made possible by the research of today.

The UM Cancer Network is committed to developing long-term partnerships with community physicians to provide the best care possible for patients. Whether you need to refer a patient, contact one of our doctors or find information on clinical trials, we are here to help. View more information.

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