City of Hope has become one of the first institutions in the nation to unite all of its psychosocial support and palliative care programs under one multidisciplinary umbrella.
The new Depaar of Supportive Care Medicine embodies a growing national movement to treat and support all aspects of patients’ cancer experience, from physical and mental health to emotional and spiritual issues. It encompasses a wide variety of professionals including pain physicians, clinical social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and chaplains.
“The Department of Supportive Care Medicine reflects City of Hope’s longstanding commitment to compassionate care for the whole patient,” said Alexandra Levine, M.D., chief medical officer. “With the establishment of this department, City of Hope becomes a national leader in the movement to fully integrate our outstanding clinical care with a full spectrum of psychosocial and supportive care services.”
The department grew out of a growing team at the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, the face of supportive care for City of Hope patients and their loved ones. The center brings together and coordinates much-needed services and aims to ensure that all patients and their families get the tools they need to fight cancer and get healthy — right from the beginning.
“We are truly breaking new ground here,” said Matthew Loscalzo, M.S.W., co-chair of the Department of Supportive Care Medicine and administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. “We are bringing the best of all our specialties together to help people who truly need support: people with cancer and those who love them. This will be a national model for how to provide care.”
Recruitment is under way for a department chair — a physician specializing in palliative care.
While patients see the Biller Resource Center as their home for support services, the Department of Supportive Care Medicine now serves as the new academic standard carried by the faculty and staff members who belong to the center’s team.
Groups joining under the new department’s umbrella include these divisions and programs: Supportive and Palliative Care Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Psychology, Clinical Social Work, Spiritual Care, Patient Navigation and Patient, Family & Community Education.
Staff in Rehabilitation Services and Clinical Nutrition Services will work closely with those in the new department as well.
City of Hope professionals are coordinating services to provide seamless supportive care. All supportive care programs also will be evaluated rigorously, and researchers will publish findings from their programs to share their successes with others.
Creation of the new department dovetails with national cries for more comprehensive care for cancer patients. In the most public call for such services, the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academies issued a report late last year pushing medical centers to better address patients’ social, emotional and spiritual needs and overall sense of well-being.
Noted Loscalzo: “We’re looking forward to setting the pace for this movement. The patients and their families will stand to benefit from what we learn.”