Summa Multidisciplinary Clinic: A New Approach to Comprehensive Cancer Care

By Jo Donofrio, photos by Chris Smanto
Thursday, October 25, 2018

(L-R) Summa Health Cancer Institute specialists Eric A. Espinal, MD, Brian D. Bauman, MD, Melanie A. Lynch, MD, and Gilbert D. Padula, MD

The management of cancer has become increasingly complex and complicated as the number of treatment options grows for patients with both early and advanced cancers. Additionally, cancer care is often time-consuming for patients and their caregivers, requiring them to schedule and visit several different specialists on several different dates. This not only delays treatment but also creates increased stress and anxiety.

Summa Health has a new streamlined approach. Established in 2017, the Multidisciplinary Clinic (MDC) provides every patient — at diagnosis — with a personal oncology nurse navigator and a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists. Together, they work to design and deliver a coordinated comprehensive plan of care for patients and their caregivers through all phases of the cancer journey. Their goal is to cure the cancer, if possible, while improving their patients’ quality of life as quickly as possible.

Gilbert D. Padula, MD, is a radiation oncologist and Medical Director of Summa Health Cancer Institute.

“The Multidisciplinary Clinic has redesigned the patient-care delivery model to circulate around the patient,” says Gilbert Padula, MD, Medical Director of the Summa Health Cancer Institute. “Patients are seen by all of their doctors and other specialists at one appointment, resulting in more efficient, streamlined care and better patient satisfaction.”

Summa Health Cancer Institute serves thousands of patients each year in Summit, Medina and Stark counties. Its team of specialty trained doctors, nurses and support staff works collaboratively to treat patients with more than 100 types of cancer. Areas of specialization include breast, colorectal, gynecologic, lung and orthopedic cancers.

A Team Approach to Individualized Care

While many multidisciplinary clinics are physician-based, Summa has taken it one step further. “What makes our clinic successful is our team-based, multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment,” says Dr. Padula, who is board-certified in Radiation Oncology. “With cancer specialists that include oncologists, health psychologists, surgeons, palliative care, advanced nurses and a specialized support staff working together, we can provide patients, their families and their caregivers with individualized support through all phases of their cancer experience.”

With a team of specialists that includes oncologists, health psychologists, surgeons, palliative care physicians, advanced nurses and a specialized support staff working together, Summa’s Multidisciplinary Clinics provide patients and their caregivers with individualized support through all phases of their cancer experience.

Currently, Summa offers subspecialty MDCs for patients with breast cancer and patients with thoracic cancer. Both offer easy and expedited access to care. For example, a patient who is diagnosed with breast or lung cancer on Monday can be seen in the Breast MDC or Thoracic MDC on Friday by a number of doctors, nurses and other dedicated staff members — such as physical therapists, dietitians, social workers, and financial counselors — who can expedite cancer treatment and provide mental, emotional, financial and spiritual support.

Patients are active participants in decision-making and have a voice in their plan of care. Prior to their appointment, each patient completes several screenings to help the team assess their needs. During their appointment, patients have the advantage of discussing their care with multiple experts and having all of their questions and concerns addressed.

Patients and caregivers or family members also work closely with an oncology nurse navigator who serves as a valuable resource for dealing with issues related to their care or with logistical issues such as transportation to and from appointments.

“We believe that the treatment of an individual with cancer is more than just treating the disease process itself,” says Brian Bauman, MD, Medical Director of Respiratory Care/Pulmonary Service and Lung Nodule Program. “Our oncology nurse navigators are key to helping patients navigate through all of their appointments and testing and provide patients, their families and caregivers with individualized support through all phases of the cancer experience.”

Breast Multidisciplinary Clinic

For patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer, the treatment options can be overwhelming. These may include partial mastectomy/lumpectomy, mastectomy, immediate/delayed reconstruction or chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other targeted therapies. At the Summa Breast Multidisciplinary Clinic, the goal is to educate each patient about treatments that are specific to individualized needs in an efficient and seamless way.

Bradley T. Clifford, MD, is a hematologist/oncologist and member of Summa’s Breast Multidisciplinary Clinic team. He works alongside Melanie A. Lynch, MD, surgical oncologist and Medical Director of the Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Center for Breast Health at Summa.

“Multidisciplinary care is about how we build a comprehensive team to deliver care that is patient-centered and patient-specific,” explains Melanie A. Lynch, MD, Medical Director of the Interdisciplinary Breast Program. “In one appointment, breast cancer patients can see all of the providers who will be involved in their care, can get a full understanding of their treatment plan from beginning to end, and can get launched into that treatment plan in a more timely way.”

Physician team members may include a medical oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon and a radiation oncologist. Together they review all options for each patient and, in a more efficient manner, develop a patient-centered plan of care.

“We know, however, that it is not only physicians that are essential to a comprehensive treatment plan,” says Dr. Lynch, who is a board-certified surgeon. “We also need to have social workers, physical therapists, nutritionists and financial counselors at the table making decisions together as a team.”

Thoracic Multidisciplinary Clinic

At the Thoracic MDC, a team of thoracic cancer specialists works collaboratively to design a coordinated, comprehensive and personalized plan of care for each patient diagnosed with cancer of the lung or chest region. With the most advanced invasive and less-invasive treatment options at their disposal, this team’s goal is to improve each patient’s prognosis and quality of life.

Eric A. Espinal, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon, and Brian D. Bauman, MD, who specializes in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, lead Summa’s Thoracic Multidisciplinary Clinic team.

“We really saw the need to expedite the process of developing a comprehensive treatment plan and evaluate patients collaboratively on a parallel track to determine each patient’s best option,” says Eric Espinal, MD, Director of Thoracic Oncology at Summa Health. Dr. Espinal is board-certified in Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery.

“In the multidisciplinary clinic, the patient receives a more complete evaluation and assessment, and is educated about all of the available tools in the toolbox to treat their cancer,” he says.

Patients appreciate that. They also appreciate the expedited access to care.

“If a patient has a bronchoscopy on Wednesday and cancer is detected, that patient can be seen in the MDC again the following Tuesday,” explains Dr. Bauman, who is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Disease. “At that time, the patient is given their results and is immediately connected with other medical providers who will be involved in his or her care. Patients also have access to nutritional and financial counseling, social workers and palliative care physicians.”

For some patients, such as those with advanced cancers or advanced age or overall poor physical condition, options other than surgery may need to be considered. “The MDC clinic is a good setting for discussing all options and for the patient to learn about the risks and benefits of each,” says Dr. Espinal. “The real benefit is in the quality of the care that is being delivered.”

“Our goal is treat people appropriately and to the highest medical standards, and to make sure that patients are comfortable and satisfied with their care,” says Dr. Bauman. “This program has certainly done that.”

Raising The Bar

Dr. Padula agrees wholeheartedly. “Our collaborative approach to cancer treatment has raised the bar regionally in Northeast Ohio. We are very committed to this model of care.”

In fact, Summa is considering adding MDCs for gastrointestinal and other specialized cancers to benefit patients.

“The expectation is that this multidisciplinary clinical approach will improve quality, outcomes and access to care,” says Dr. Padula.

For more information or to refer a patient to Summa’s Breast Multidisciplinary Clinic, call 888-399-9426. For more information or to refer a patient to Summa’s Thoracic Multidisciplinary Clinic, call 888-540-8986.