The Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at University Hospital will soon have new specialized staff members and a dedicated lounge where patients can take a needed break from fighting illness.
The expanded resources are the result of a $296,000 grant and partnership with Teen Cancer America, a national nonprofit founded by musicians Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of the world-renowned rock band The Who.
“These funds are going to help us shorten the timeline on improving quality-of-life and outcomes for teens and young adults with cancer here in South Texas,” said Dr. Allison Grimes, director of the AYA Cancer Program, a partnership between University Health System and UT Health San Antonio.
Compared to younger and older cancer populations, this age group, 15 to 39, has experienced lower survival gains in recent decades, Grimes said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, AYA patients often face delayed access to care, in part because of financial needs or lack of insurance. They are less likely to participate in clinical trials and there is insufficient research data related to their specific conditions.
“University Hospital has recognized the unique needs of this age group. We’ve responded by assembling a dedicated medical team and one of the largest inpatient units for adolescent and young adult cancer patients in Texas,” said University Hospital Administrator Mike Roussos.
“This generous grant, secured by The University Health System Foundation, will allow us to build on the resources and specialized care needed in our community,” Roussos said.
The new social worker being hired with this grant will help fill some of the gaps by assessing the psychosocial needs of the patients and family, then connecting them with resources which may include financial assistance, transportation or emotional counseling.
A navigator will guide patients from diagnoses through treatment, assisting with medical referrals and services that may include fertility preservation and access to clinical trials.
The lounge, being designed with suggestions from AYA patients, will be a comfortable space with a flat-screen TV, reading nook and snack bar. The setting will allow patients to share experiences and escape the isolation of their hospital rooms. A guitar signed by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will add to the “cool” factor.
In selecting University Health System for this award Simon Davies, Executive Director of Teen Cancer America, highlighted University Health System’s “strong roots in the community.”
“We have been so impressed with their dedication to oncology and their specialized Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program, combining a strong engagement of local groups and communities in this initiative. We are proud to partner with such a fantastic, inclusive organization,” Davies said.
Lourdes Castro Ramirez, president of the University Health System Foundation, called the grant a game changer.
“We are grateful to Teen Cancer America for partnering with us to improve the good health of the community by providing holistic and compassionate care to adolescents and young adults with cancer,” she said.
She noted the partnership doesn’t end with this grant. The Foundation and AYA Program will continue to work with Teen Cancer America to identify opportunities to further serve this specific cancer population.
About University Health System and the AYA Cancer Program: University Health System is a nationally recognized teaching hospital and network of outpatient healthcare centers, owned by the people of Bexar County. The Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program, a partnership between the Health System and UT Health San Antonio, serves cancer patients referred from across Texas who are ages 15 to 39. Approximately 150 new patients enter the program each year. Goals include optimizing clinical trial enrollment and providing greater resources to meet the patients’ unique medical needs.
About Teen Cancer America: Every hour another adolescent or young adult is diagnosed with cancer in America. Teen Cancer America transforms the lives for this underserved patient population by working with our country’s leading cancer treatment and research centers. This unique organization works with the leading healthcare institutions to build state-of-the-art adolescent and young adult “social zones” for both in-patient and out-patient treatment settings. The work of Teen Cancer America has impacted over 5,000 young people and their families nationwide during the last seven years.
About the University Health System Foundation: The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of University Health System, with a mission to act as a lifeline of support by inspiring donors and ensuring a healthy and thriving community for generations to come. The Foundation recognized there was a need for more AYA dedicated resources, and in collaboration with UT Health San Antonio, the Foundation secured funding from Teen Cancer America.
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