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Fighting for Cancer Patients

11/10/14

PA Cancer Control Board reinvigorated with three new appointments including Jefferson’s Margaret O’Grady

The Pennsylvania Cancer Control Prevention and Research Board (CAB), whose members include healthcare representatives throughout the state, aims to advocate for the rights of cancer patients both in the State of Pennsylvania and the federal government. The organization, which advises the Governor on the topics that are most important to cancer patients in terms of prevention, treatment and research, last week gained three new members, including Margaret O’Grady, R.N., M.S.N., O.C.N., F.A.A.M.A.,  the Director of Nursing for medical oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center  at Thomas Jefferson University.

A nurse of 30 years, O’Grady is familiar with the frustrations of patients as they navigate through their treatment. This year, she was also named the 2014-2015 President of the Pennsylvania Society of Oncology and Hematology - the state wide American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) consortium and was awarded the Healthcare Executive of the Year award in 2011. A long-time resident of Montgomery County, O’Grady will commute up to Harrisburg several times per year for in-person CAB meetings representing the regional area for patient advocacy.

For O’Grady, the insurance-approval process for newer cancer therapies is one of the most important issues she plans to focus on during her tenure with the CAB. “Nurses will spend 5-7 hours or more just trying to get insurance coverage for a single patient, especially for the newer, less toxic oral chemotherapies,” she says. While this can be a strain on hospitals that regularly care for cancer patients, clinics in rural areas may not have a nurse who performs that function, leaving the navigation solely to the patient who may not have the skills needed to win the approvals. “Patients already dealing with the stress of cancer treatment shouldn’t have to fight on their own to get these personalized therapies,” says O’Grady.  “We need a better and simpler process for getting approvals.”  Through her work with the Pennsylvania Society of Oncology and Hematology, she plans to look at legislation that would create a uniform and more streamlined process for approvals state-wide.

Another area of concern is the need for coordinated multidisciplinary care and good transition between different cancer specialists. “Cancer patients see a huge number of providers,” says O’Grady. The CAB can play a role by helping set the standard and best practices. “We want to make sure the patient is enveloped with seamless care throughout their therapy,” she adds.

The new board is also tasked with working on a 10-year plan for cancer care, prevention and survivorship for the State of Pennsylvania that will help guide where funds allotted for cancer care and research should be focused. The next meeting of the CAB is scheduled for December 10th 2014.

“Cancer patients, and healthy individuals at higher risk of developing cancer need strong advocates,” says O’Grady. “I’m proud to represent Jefferson and to join an organization that works on improving patient cancer care for patients at the governmental level.”

For more information, contact Edyta Zielinska, 215-955-5291, edyta.zielinska@jefferson.edu.