UCI cancer unit earns high-quality-care designation
Practice is first one in state certified by American Society of Clinical Oncology
The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Division of Hematology/Oncology is among the nation’s first practices to receive American Society of Clinical Oncology certification for high-quality patient care.
The ASCO Quality Oncology Practice Initiative assures patients and their families that an oncology practice meets rigorous standards for high-quality cancer care. UC Irvine’s cancer center has California’s sole QOPI-certified practice and the only one in the U.S. directly affiliated with a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.
“We are incredibly proud to have attained this three-year certification,” said Dr. Randall F. Holcombe, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology. “It underscores our commitment to excellence in patient care and demonstrates the high level of clinical service we provide for our patients with cancer and blood disorders.”
QOPI is a voluntary self-assessment and improvement program launched by ASCO in 2006 to help outpatient hematology and oncology practices gauge the caliber of care they provide. Encompassing at least 80 quality measures, it lets practices compare their performance data to that of others across the country and identify areas for improvement.
However, as former UC Irvine patients will attest, the superior oncology care this certification represents is more than the sum of quality measures and performance data. After Michelle Burke was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, often fatal, Holcombe and his colleagues executed a meticulous treatment plan.
“They dropped everything to help me and were much more willing to be aggressive than other cancer centers,” said Burke, who is now in remission.
“Increasingly educated patients and families demand accountability and the highest standards from cancer care providers,” said Dr. Douglas W. Blayney, immediate past president of ASCO. “The QOPI certification will allow oncologists in the community to be at the forefront of cancer care, and to be recognized for their quality. The certification program will help practices determine whether they are providing the best treatment and care possible to their patients, and it demonstrates a commitment to excellence and ongoing quality improvement in the hematology-oncology outpatient practice.”
As Orange County’s sole NCI-designated comprehensive cancer facility, the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only place patients can participate in clinical trials as well as receive leading-edge treatments.
It pursues translational research efforts focused on several areas of strength: gastrointestinal, skin, prostate, breast and gynecologic cancers. The extremely active and productive translational working groups are composed of basic scientists, epidemiologists and clinicians with a keen interest in transforming ideas and discoveries into new cancer treatments and interventions.
“From a patient perspective, QOPI certification is like a beacon identifying an oncology practice as one that meets all national guidelines for quality care. It will help patients and their families make informed decisions about where to get the best treatment for cancer and blood disorders,” said Holcombe.
“The certification reinforces that we in UCI’s Division of Hematology/Oncology are experts in taking care of patients, complementing our strengths in laboratory research and clinical trials that have always been hallmarks of our program here at the cancer center.”
About ASCO: The American Society of Clinical Oncology is the world’s leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer. With more than 28,000 members, ASCO is committed to improving cancer care through scientific meetings, educational programs and peer-reviewed journals. For more ASCO information and resources, visit www.asco.org. Patient-oriented cancer information is available at www.cancer.net.
About UC Irvine Medical Center: Orange County’s only university research hospital, Level I trauma center, American College of Surgeons-verified regional burn center and National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, UC Irvine Medical Center offers acute- and general-care services at its new 482,000-square-foot UC Irvine Douglas Hospital. U.S. News & World Report has included UCI for 10 consecutive years on its list of America’s Best Hospitals, giving special recognition to its urology, gynecology and ear, nose & throat programs.
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.9 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.
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Quality care, successful treatment
Michelle Burke was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in November 2009. The 45-year-old Rossmoor resident and self-described soccer mom with three kids says she had experienced no symptoms. Yet, when discovered during a routine exam, the cancer was close to shutting down her colon and had spread to her liver and nearby lymph nodes.
She immediately sought advice. While doctors at one oncology center acknowledged the cancer’s seriousness, Burke says, they seemed passive in presenting treatment options.
“They didn’t know if they could help,” she says. That same day, she went to UC Irvine’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“The UCI doctors said, ‘You have your whole life ahead of you. We’re not going to roll over to this,’” Burke recalls. “I got in very quickly to see Dr. Randy Holcombe; they dropped everything to help me.”
The treatment plan Holcombe prepared called for aggressive chemotherapy to shrink the tumors, followed by surgery to remove whatever remained of them.
“We began chemo within a few weeks,” Burke says. “Dr. Holcombe asked if I wanted to wait until after the holidays, and I said, ‘Nope, let’s get this started.’ I had been healthy as can be, and I wanted to get back to my life.”
The tumors shrank dramatically, and by April, Dr. David Imagawa had removed a large section of her liver and Dr. Michael Stamos had operated on the colon tumor. Subsequent testing has found no sign of cancer.
“I’m doing more rounds of chemo to make sure there are no cancer cells,” Burke says. “The entire team here has been incredibly supportive. I feel they’ve done everything possible to help me beat this.”
Other patient stories:
Billy Pine: Retired businessman defeats both colon and prostate cancer
Joe Alfaro: Cancer patient takes his (hard) hat off to UC Irvine medical team
Binh Phan: From breast cancer patient to bride-to-be
Angelo Giuliano: Laguna Beach man was involved with a campaign to help young adult cancer patients when he joined their ranks
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