A new clinic aimed at rethinking cancer treatment is coming to UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, and is expected to host its first patients in December.
The CaLM Clinic will join the Women's Health Institute, Musculoskeletal Institute and the Mulva Clinic of Neurosciences in Health Transformation Building. Those clinics began seeing their first patients last October.
CaLM roughly stands for cancer life reimagined, says Dr. Gail Eckhardt, director of Livestrong Cancer Institutes at UT. Building a new clinic has given Eckhardt and her team the chance to rethink how care should be delivered, she says.
"Cancer patients are living longer with cancer, and, in some respects, it's like having another chronic medical illness rather than something we consider terminal," Eckhardt says. While the prognosis has changed, the way care is being delivered at other centers hasn't necessarily changed. "We're focusing on the medical, but not the things that matter to the patient most," she says.
The new center will be offering the "flipped model." The patient will use the center as his or her home clinic and be visited there by their entire care team including dieticians, rehabilitation therapists, pain managers, social workers, lung or gastrointestinal specialists, genetic counselors, fertility specialists, pathologists, radiologists and oncologists. Patients will get cancer treatment at the clinic, but they'll also get asked about side effects and help with managing those as well as asked how their kids are dealing with the diagnosis and treatment, she says.
"The patient's home clinic is where they get the resources they need to live a vibrant life to, to stay engaged with whatever they can do," Eckhardt says. "The physician becomes the add on."
The center avoids patients having to run around town for care, and it also will recognize that patients are continuing to work with Stage 4 disease and might not be able to miss work for treatment.
The center, as part of a medical school, will be tracking the medical outcomes and asking patients about the quality of their lives. Researchers in the Health Discover Building will be able to collect data from patients and share it with fellow researchers to see if this model improves outcomes.
The Institutes also will be focusing on ways cancer care be improved for 18-year-olds to 39-year-olds. This is traditionally a poorly served population, Eckhardt says, because sometimes the only care for the cancer they have is in the pediatric hospital or in a clinic with older adults. Eventually, the CaLM Clinic will have a separate area for young adults, as well as a young adult advisory board.
The CaLM Clinic will initially use doctors who are also on the faculty at Dell Medical School as well as hiring specialists. Eckhardt also wants to collaborate with doctors who are already working in the community.
The clinic will start with gastrointestinal and gynecological cancers. As specialists in teen malignancy, head and neck, and lung cancers are hired, the clinic will expand to treat those cancers.
"There isn't anything like this in the country," Eckhardt says. "The only way we can do this is it's a new cancer center and we don't have to break down barriers."