I’m Dr. Christopher Lathan, and I am the Chief Clinical Access and Equity Officer at Dana-Farber as well as the Founding Director of the Institute’s Cancer Care Equity Program.

Let’s share some data. Black patients with cancer are likely to die sooner than white patients, and patients with financial stress at the time of their diagnosis are more likely to experience pain and depression than those who have financial reserves. These disparities start from the first step in fighting the disease—screenings. Nationwide, minorities are less likely to receive screenings. This happens for many reasons: lack of insurance or transportation, or a job where they cannot take time off due to a loss of income. These challenges systematically block care for the most vulnerable.

Our group’s work is centered on the effects of race, class, and access to care. This includes racial disparities in treatment, negative perceptions about genetic testing, and how precision medicine is utilized across different racial groups. It is our belief that participation of underserved communities in tissue banking, clinical trials, or intervention studies is a product of presence and trust. Our goal is to reduce cancer disparities and broaden access to high-level, quality care in our vulnerable communities. Zip code, skin color, and income should not determine who is able to access treatment. Our goal is to be present and eager to give, and not so eager to take. To build our relationships based on trust. To create a path that allows those with the heaviest burden of cancer to be treated with the highest level of expertise.

Our team has focused on embedding ourselves in community health centers to provide guidance and care during the diagnostic process. We utilize community-facing patient navigation, and now plan to integrate our community-facing navigation approach throughout our clinical system. So, let’s go back to the data. Improving care for the marginalized doesn’t just improve care for the marginalized. It improves care for all. And improving care for everyone, well … that’s just one way Dana-Farber continues to Defy Cancer.

— Christopher Lathan, MD, MS, MPH
Chief Clinical Access and Equity Officer, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Founding Director for Cancer Care Equity, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Medical Director, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Brighton
Associate Medical Director, Dana-Farber Network
Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

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