One of the most important responsibilities for a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, like the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), is to make an impact on cancer care and education in the community. That is one reason why we at UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter were so pleased to serve as the host for the Building Bridges: Pennsylvania Cancer Planning Summit 2013 on April 10-11. Held at the Herberman Conference Center in the Hillman Cancer Center, the summit brought together more than 170 health professionals and advocates from across the state to the on-site meeting as well as about 35 participants each in Philadelphia and Danville by video conferencing. The charge was simple: to provide input into the 2013-2018 Pennsylvania Cancer Plan, a plan that should be “flexible, feasible, implementable, and sustainable.”
Surely a highlight was the opening reception at the Hillman atrium organized by the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition under the able leadership of Pat Halpin-Murphy and sponsored by UPCI. It featured a photo display of breast cancer survivors from all of the counties of Pennsylvania and attendees had a chance to hear from two local breast cancer survivors and advocates, Bernice Austen-Smith and Marina Posvar. We were delighted that several members of our UPCI Council, including Elsie Hillman, Fred Sargent, Randy Harper, and George Fechter, could join us to welcome our guests. They included Acting Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Michael Wolf.
Two keynote speakers helped to set the tone for the daylong workshop. Marcus Plescia, M.D., M.P.H., brought the federal view about cancer screening and control from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while Acting Secretary Wolf spoke about these issues from the perspective of the state. Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, gave a provocative talk about health in the U.S. and around the world. With that background, participants broke out into four workshops to share and define best practices and flesh out the outline of the draft cancer plan. This day of public input and feedback will be used by the state Cancer Advisory Board (which includes two of our Pitt faculty members, Susanne Gollin, Ph.D., and Robert Edwards, M.D.) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to craft the final plan over the next months. This timing will allow the plan to go forward in synergy with the elements of the national Accountable Care Act as it is implemented over the next few years.
An event of this magnitude is not possible without champions. We are so grateful to Everette James, the associate vice chancellor for Health Policy and Planning at Pitt's Schools of the Health Sciences and also a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health himself, who helped us bring the summit to Pittsburgh. Lyn Robertson, Dr.P.H, our UPCI leader for community outreach, and Eileen Milakovic, B.S.N, R.N., O.C.N., continuing education specialist, oversaw the planning and operations, resulting in a productive, fast-paced and seamless event. We thank them for their tireless efforts. Even the Pittsburgh weather cooperated with a sunny spring day with newly blossoming daffodils and cherry trees.
Of course a planning summit is only as successful as the plan that emerges. We at UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter look forward to the final 2013-2018 Pennsylvania State Cancer Plan as a guide for how we can refine our efforts to improve the cancer-related health of our citizens. We view these cancer prevention and control efforts as among our most important responsibilities in our mission to translate cancer discovery from the bench to the bedside to the community.