Matthew Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., the Liliane Elkins Professor in Supportive Care Programs, has more than 27 years experience in caring for cancer patients and their families. He is recognized internationally as a pioneer and expert in the clinical, educational, and research domains of psychosocial aspects of chronic life-threatening illness.
In addition to his 60 publications, he has given well over 500 professional lectures nationally and internationally as an invited speaker. He is also on the editorial board of many professional journals and served on the first Institute of Medicine Panel to report on dying in America. Loscalzo has held leadership positions in many health-related organizations and is the past Ppresident of the American Psychosocial Oncology Society, the largest organization of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses and others committed to fostering new knowledge through research and providing evidence-based care for people with cancer and their families. Loscalzo is also a past president of the Association of Oncology Social Workers.
Trained as an oncology social worker at the New York University, he was hired upon completion of his internship in the Neurology Service as a founding member of the Supportive Care Team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City in 1981. The Supportive Care Team was the first multidisciplinary academic comprehensive palliative care service in the United States. Loscalzo assumed leadership in and provided for the psychological, social, practical, and emotional needs of patients with complex neurological or psychiatric symptoms, or who were dying, and their families. He also had primary responsibility for a large number of patients in the Pain Clinic requiring ongoing specialized psycho-behavioral therapy to maximize function and comfort. While at Memorial Sloan-Kettering he also created the first ongoing program for inter-professional education focusing on the psychosocial and humanistic aspects of caring.
In 1993, Loscalzo was recruited to the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in Baltimore, Md. He became director of Patient and Family Services and the founding co-director of the comprehensive cancer pain service. While in this position, he also assumed a leadership position as co-director in the development of a clinical pain service and co-led the Center for Cancer Pain Research. A number of innovative pain educational instruments were developed under his leadership and direction and are still in use.
While at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Loscalzo also pioneered the implementation of a comprehensive biopsychosocial screening instrument for common problems encountered by cancer patients which was copy righted and for which he is the first author. This was the first universal prospective comprehensive ongoing biopsychosocial screening program in the world. The data from these studies have been published and are still being used.
Of particular significance, while at Johns Hopkins, Loscalzo was principal investigator on a two-year study funded by the George Soros Foundation/Project on Death in America to test the feasibility of teaching problem-solving to a population of patients with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live; it also included their family members. The study demonstrated that even for people at the end of life and their families, it was possible and helpful to teach problem-solving skills related to complex symptoms and dying.
When published, the article won an award for most innovative published research with a practical application by the national office of the American Cancer Society. This work reinforced the focus of.Loscalzo’s clinical and research interests: discovering new ways to maximize the inherent strengths of people, their families and the community. At Johns Hopkins, Loscalzo also created one the first programs in the world focusing on gender synergies — the ability of women and men to get the best out of each other while under stress. This concept resulted in a 5-year-study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to teach minority, underserved men how to best support women with cancer.
In 2002, Loscalzo was recruited to the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. to be an associate dean and associate professor of medicine. While in Virginia, he was responsible for the third-year mandatory medical school class in palliative care. He also supervised, counseled and performed mediation with clinical and research faculty and staff. Loscalzo also was responsible for the building of palliative care clinical and education programs across five community hospitals. He also was given responsibility for the Schools of Health Professions.
Two years later, Loscalzo was recruited to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine as associate clinical professor of medicine (in hematologic oncology) and director of patient and family support services in the Moores UCSD Cancer Center in La Jolla, Calif., as well as co-director of palliative care for the UCSD Health System. Neither of these programs existed before Loscalzo joined the organization.
Within two years, Mr. Loscalzo created one of the best-integrated programs of humanistic care in the U.S. and one of the most comprehensive prospective programs of biopsychosocial screening in the world. By using touch-screen technology in real time, in English and Spanish, patients were able to communicate their personal concerns in an honest and confidential manner to their physician, nurse and social worker, via e-mail, just minutes before their initial meeting. This level of ongoing communication helps to insure that the specific concerns of patients are quickly communicated and addressed at first and follow- up visits. The aggregate data is then used to develop new educational programs identified by the patients themselves.
Loscalzo was also principal investigator on a 4-year, IRB-approved study to understand the ongoing needs of cancer patients through the use of a revised problem-based screening instrument that he developed. The touch screen instrument was widely accepted by patients, family members, faculty and staff.
He created one of only two integrated inter-professional humanistic programs in the United States focusing on the biopsychosocial needs of patients, family members and the community. Under his leadership, the Moores UCSD Cancer Center had active, coordinated and ongoing participation to promote clinical excellence by the new palliative care program and the departments of Social Work, Psychiatry, Psychology, Community Outreach, Volunteers and others.
In addition to program integration, he continued his pioneering work in biopsychosocial screening. The Moores UCSD Cancer Center became the first institution in the world that prospectively screens all cancer patients for problems experience or anticipated. After screening, patients are systematically triaged for timely clinical intervention. Data from the only program have been approved by the IRB for publication and have significant implications for the identification of problems relevant to palliative care.
Loscalzo also developed and co-led (with a member of the community) the Patient Advisory Council at the cancer center. The Patient Advisory Council is composed of patients, family members and staff, all focused on creating excellence in the cancer center by advising the cancer center leadership of constituent perspectives.
Loscalzo was founding co-chair of the UCSD system-wide Power of Excellence Leadership Team. Within this context, he created the infrastructure, recruited 25 leaders and planned a system-wide program of leadership development. This program is ongoing.
In June 2007, Loscalzo was recruited to City of Hope to be the administrative director of the new and innovative Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. In this new and exciting position,. Loscalzo has been given the charge by City of Hope leadership to create the best program of humanistic caring in the world. Building on City of Hope’s long and proud history of scientific discovery and clinical excellence, the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center will integrate and synergize the best of science and caring.
The very infrastructure of the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center program is highly innovative. The approach is totally patient and family-centered. All support programs for patients, families and the community are carefully integrated to maximize benefits and to create a seamless system that anticipates what patients and family members need while tailoring the approach by family situation, type of illness and treatment, age, culture and identified needs.
Because City of Hope has committed to systematically screening all new patients for personal concerns, requests for tailored information and physical symptoms, ongoing communication and team work will be built into the relationship from the first visit. A new touch-screen system was recently launched to screen and educate patients about services and common problems to cancer and its treatments. Once a need is identified, referrals to the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center team will be activated. Patient and family navigators, social workers, educators, psychologists, psychiatrists, palliative care experts, pastoral counselors, physicians, patient-to-patient volunteers, and a host of other resources will be made readily available.
Loscalzo will also continue his research focused on integrating new technologies for screening, increasing participation in clinical trials, gender synergies and problem-solving.