New UA initiative wants to improve cancer care for Latinos, underserved

New UA initiative wants to improve cancer care for Latinos, underserved
(Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A new initiative at the University of Arizona hopes to expand the access to high-quality cancer care for Latinos and other under served populations in Southern Arizona.

The 5-year, $1.99 million grant from the Merck Foundation Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care will support programs that work to improve the collaboration between primary care physicians and cancer specialists.

"This grant from the Merck Foundation builds on the University of Arizona's strong history of collaboration with community partners throughout Southern Arizona," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart in a recent press release. "Their support advances our work to enhance the quality of life for everyone in Arizona, and I am grateful for all this will allow the UA to accomplish."

This initiative is bringing together the UA College of Medicine – Tucson's Department of Family and Community Medicine, the UA Department of Psychology, UA Cancer Center and community partners, including El Rio Community Health Center and the Arizona Community Health Worker Outreach Network.

"Being able to expand these services will really help us address this particular need that cancer patients and their families may have," said Heidi Hamann, one of the lead investigators for this project.

They also hope to enhance engagement with patients and increase the oncology communication training for UA medical students and other trainees in the health sciences.

"We want to help the physicians learn new skills for using all the information that's available about a patient," said Jeff Stone, also a lead investigator.

Projects funded by the grant will help support patients and ensure their preferences, values and needs help guide clinical decisions related to their care.

For 25-year-old Kris Quiroga, who was diagnosed with cancer in December 2016, expanding the access to high quality cancer care for Latinos is vital.

"Especially from the Latino community, we're so easy to just going along with it and say okay, this is how it's going to be," said Quiroga.

Quiroga, a father from Nogales, Sonora, holds the title of Mr. Arizona Entertainer of the Year, and said though his journey with cancer is just starting, he continues to have faith.

"It feels like your world crumbles," said Quiroga. "The Earth starts to eat you alive and you really don't know what to do. Don't give up. Talk to people who have had this situation. Organizations that may help you. There's always going to be somewhere out there that's going to be able to provide you the help you need."

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