Susan and Tom Salice have been focused throughout their lives to do what they can to provide equality of access to transformative initiatives from education to healthcare. The Dana-Farber Patient Navigation Program is one such promising initiative. With their gift of $1 million through the Salice Family Foundation, the Salices believe they can inspire others to give to an Institute-wide program to reach a diverse group of patients that mirrors Boston’s communities, enabling anyone diagnosed with cancer to access Dana-Farber’s cutting-edge treatments and compassionate care.
The Institute’s patient navigation program was created in 2005 to guide medically underserved patients and their families through the complexities of cancer screening and care in a way that is sensitive to both their medical needs and their cultural backgrounds. Based on the original model of patient navigation for vulnerable populations, the program builds one-to-one connections with patients from the beginning of their journey as they transition from their community provider to Dana-Farber.
With the Salice Foundation gift, Dana-Farber is launching a pilot patient navigation program, under the leadership of Christopher Lathan, MD, MS, MPH, chief clinical access and equity officer, and Magnolia Contreras, MSW, MBA, vice president of community health, starting with gastrointestinal cancers.
Minority communities are disproportionately represented among patients with GI cancers. Black Americans are 20% more likely to develop colon and rectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other racial or ethnic groups. Hispanic individuals diagnosed with liver cancer are twice as likely to die as a result of the disease than non-Hispanic whites.
“As a clinician, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges that patients of low socioeconomic status and patients of color face, whether it is language, transportation, or education about their treatment options,” said Lathan. “Recent events have catalyzed Dana-Farber’s institutional self-reflection on how we can apply our expertise in cancer care and community outreach to save more lives.”
By year two, Lathan anticipates that the pilot navigator in the GI clinic will be integrated into its clinical operation, and planning will begin to hire two navigators for the thoracic and hematologic oncology center. The program will then include the genitourinary oncology, with a navigator assisting men from vulnerable populations with prostate cancer. Increasing minority patient accrual in clinical trials is a priority for Dana-Farber, and additional navigators will work across the Institute to provide specialized clinical trial navigation for patients participating in research.
“We love that Dana-Farber offers the highest level of cancer care without boundaries,” says Susan Salice. “For many people, access to this care is unimaginable and beyond their reach, but with the support, guidance, and direction provided by the patient navigator program more lives will be given hope.”