Evolving cancer care in an evolving world

A Q&A with Norton Cancer Institute Physician-In-Chief Joseph M. Flynn, D.O., MPH, FACP

While the world was facing a global pandemic and many countries, including our own, were dealing with political and social divisions, care providers and researchers like those at the Norton Cancer Institute were continuing their work.

Despite the demands that came with the coronavirus, Joseph M. Flynn, D.O., MPH, FACP, tells us that he and his colleagues leaned into an unwavering commitment to their mission as they adjusted to the challenges.

Here is part of our conversation with Dr. Flynn.

COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of life in 2020. How has it impacted the delivery of health care and of cancer care, in particular?

Dr. Flynn: Each year we strive to make cancer care more advanced, more convenient and more accessible than the year before. Never could we have imagined a year when we would face a worldwide pandemic that threatened all aspects of care. But that about sums up 2020. No doubt the coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in myriad personal and professional ways, but we refused to let it stop us from delivering the most advanced, convenient and accessible cancer care in our region.

This year, our motto – to care for not just the body, but the person within – took on new meaning as our patient navigators and resource centers worked to ensure they could help our patients’ increased mental and emotional needs during these hard times. Our significant commitment to behavioral oncology proved invaluable as we faced these new challenges.

How did your team pivot from traditional ways of working to delivering care during a pandemic?

Dr. Flynn: As we sought ways to deliver the same state-of-the-art cancer care in a world where masks and video visits were commonplace, we realized that the same ingenuity we had employed to stay at the forefront of cancer medicine could be harnessed to continue to battle cancer in the face of the pandemic. Our incredibly dedicated, innovative and resilient cancer teams rose to the occasion.

In addition to expanding telemedicine options, we established guidelines for social distancing, enhanced disinfection and keeping patients safer when they need to come to our offices — so that their experience remains seamless. Sure, it is different, but we never veered from our commitment to provide the best care possible in the region.

How are you and your team preparing for 2021 and beyond?

Dr. Flynn: We are very excited for 2021 and the many opportunities it will bring, particularly regarding our research program.

Clinical trials are vital tools in our fight against cancer. These have become an important link in determining the best new treatments and best ways to administer therapies. In 2020, Norton Cancer Institute offered nearly 180 active clinical trials for cancers ranging from Phase 1 to late-phase pivotal studies, and from first-line diagnoses to recurrent cancer cases. Cancer represents the single largest segment of Norton Healthcare’s 800-plus research portfolio.

A cancer research program this robust is uncommon in a nonuniversity-based community health system setting. Our program’s success hinges on a wide array of clinical and scientific expertise among our providers, a strong research infrastructure, and multidisciplinary integrated and specialized teamwork.

Never have I been more proud of a group of individuals as I am right now. My colleagues at Norton Cancer Institute have stood strong with our patients and the community as a whole during one of the most devastating moments in our history. Our mission is to end cancer — and while it is not easy and it takes courage and a dedicated team of specialists, I am convinced that we have the right team in place to make cancer a thing of the past.


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