Cancer isn’t confined by geography. There are patients all over Southern California looking for top-notch care when they’re facing the fight of their lives. While there’s help to be found at City of Hope, it can be difficult for patients to travel to the main campus in Duarte amid all the other complications that come with their diagnosis.
To provide the same extraordinary level of care close to home, City of Hope has established dozens of community practice sites in recent years, including City of Hope | Antelope Valley in Lancaster. A recent conversation with George Hajjar, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medical oncology and therapeutics research, offers a glimpse into how lifesaving, compassionate care is delivered to the people of Antelope Valley.
From your perspective, what goes into providing great patient care?
A cancer diagnosis is life-changing. Taking care of cancer patients involves more than saying, “This is your prescription. Go take it for a week and you’ll be fine.” There are many physical and emotional changes that patients face. It takes a village of physicians, nurses and many other medical team members to help in caring interactions with patients and their families.
There are two new additions to the City of Hope | Antelope Valley medical oncology team. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
One is Dr. Hannah Asghari, who is board-certified in hematology and medical oncology, and she’s a great physician. She’s a talented clinician, and she is dedicated to caring for her patients and their families throughout their cancer journeys.
Dr. Amartej Merla is also board-certified in hematology and medical oncology and has been practicing in Antelope Valley for quite some time now, and we are very happy that he’s joined the clinic, as well as taking on a leadership role. He has tremendous empathy toward his patients. That’s what you’ll find at City of Hope. From the moment a patient enters, they are the most important person in the room. Dr. Merla truly wants patients to know they are cared for. He has a wonderful vision for bringing world-class care to our local community.
What services does City of Hope | Antelope Valley provide?
It’s one of City of Hope’s largest community practice sites. We have a large, comfortable infusion therapy suite where chemotherapy, immunotherapy and other treatments can be delivered. Our nursing staff is chemo-certified, very caring and very competent. We are so proud of them.
Other services include radiation therapy, with two full-time radiation oncologists, gynecological oncology, surgical oncology, and a team of five urologists. We have supportive services such as a social worker on-site.
What does the City of Hope community practice site mean to the community in Antelope Valley?
People want treatment closer to home. That’s the whole idea of our local sites: We come to the community rather than expecting the community to come to us. We have the commitment to bring the same quality of care from Duarte to the Antelope Valley.
Our City of Hope community practice site has become a landmark of cancer care here.