In accepting the Public Service Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) for his efforts to prevent cancer and help those battling it in the First State, U.S. Rep. John Carney of Delaware praised the leadership role of Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.
ASCO annually presents the Public Service Award to a person involved in legislative, political action or community service activities that impact public awareness about cancer, its causes, cures or treatment. Previous recipients include Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Rep. Carney received the award at ASCO’s annual meeting on June 1.
In a gesture of collegiality, Rep. Carney invited to the podium Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America endowed medical director of the Graham Cancer Center, and Stephen S. Grubbs, M.D., a medical oncologist at the Graham Cancer Center. All three have been active on the state of Delaware’s Cancer Consortium for many years. (Video.)
“Without the leadership from Dr. Petrelli and Dr. Grubbs we would not have been able to accomplish the things we did these last 20 years. I want to share this award with them,” Rep. Carney said.
Ten years ago, Delaware had the second highest cancer mortality in the nation. Today, thanks to a partnership between the state and health care providers including the Graham Cancer Center, Delaware ranks 14th on that list. Cancer mortality rates for both men and women in the state are dropping twice as fast as the national average.
“It is a pleasure working with Congressman Carney in the fight against cancer,” said Dr. Petrelli. “He has a deep dedication to preventing cancer and helping patients who are battling it. And he tries to achieve these goals by working as a community, whether it’s here in Delaware with the members of the Cancer Consortium, or in Congress with representatives from both parties. He’s a strong leader and an example for policymakers across the country, and I look forward to working with him for many years to come because he continues to challenge us as physicians to be better at our jobs.”
To help in the fight against cancer, Delaware introduced several preventive measures, such as the statewide smoking ban and access to screenings for everyone regardless of income. The state is also providing comprehensive treatment for those without insurance and is working to reduce prescription drug shortages.
Rep. Carney has been a member of Delaware’s Cancer Consortium since its creation in 2001, and for more than a decade chaired the Consortium’s Disparities Committee. During that time, he helped lead the successful implementation of Delaware’s colorectal cancer screening program.
The program led to a 41 percent reduction in colorectal cancer mortality rates among African-Americans, eliminating the racial disparity between African Americans and whites in the state. The program increased screening rates for all Delawareans to 74 percent, among the highest in the nation.
Last year, ASCO’s official journal, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, featured a study on the program’s results, “Eliminating Racial Disparities in Colorectal Cancer in the Real World: It Took a Village.” It reported that the colorectal cancer treatment program alone saved $8.5 million between 2001 and 2009 due to the reduced incidence of cancer and a shift to treatment of cancers that require less aggressive therapy. Dr Grubbs and Nora Katurakes, RN, MSN, OCN, Christiana Care’s manager of Community Health Outreach and Education, were both authors of the manuscript along with Rep. Carney, marking the first time a sitting member of Congress had been included as an author in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Founded in 1964, ASCO is the world’s leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer. With nearly 35,000 members, ASCO is committed to improving cancer care through scientific meetings, educational programs and peer-reviewed journals.