Awny Farajallah, Head of U.S. Medical at Bristol Myers Squibb

Where do we find the answers to cancer's challenges? Our own backyard

September 16, 2018     
Awny Farajallah, Head of U.S. Medical at Bristol Myers Squibb

What unique challenges do cities face when it comes to cancer care – and what can be done to address them?

These are the questions posed by the AtlanticLIVE Cancer and the Community series, underwritten by Bristol Myers Squibb. So far this year, the series has traveled to Pittsburgh and Minneapolis. Both cities are thriving hubs for cancer research and development, but both also have barriers to overcome.  

Awny Farajallah, head of U.S. Medical at Bristol Myers Squibb, shares his insights from the two events.

Why have you hosted the first two events of 2018 in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis?

The goal of the series is to shine a light on issues in cancer care at the local level. While some challenges vary from city to city, these events strive to identify where there are also common potential solutions.

We chose Pittsburgh and Minneapolis to explore the topics of environmental impact and health disparities, respectively. The “Steel City” boasts premier health care networks that lead the charge in cancer research. The “Twin Cities” also are home to some of the nation’s most notable cancer centers at the forefront of discovering new therapies and expanding access to treatment.

And yet, both have unmet needs in cancer care – Pittsburgh’s industrial past has contributed to high incidence of the disease; and underserved populations in Minneapolis, including minorities, face poorer outcomes than other Minnesotans.

The participants at these two events addressed the need to expand access to resources and education locally. They also delved into the role of precision medicine in improving care in underserved and environmentally impacted communities alike.

What’s driving Bristol Myers Squibb to engage with the local community?

By collaborating with community leaders, we are striving to provide local healthcare professionals the support, guidance and education necessary to help meet patient needs. We want to ensure that all providers are properly equipped with helpful resources for them, whether they are treated at a top academic institution or their local oncologist’s office.

Cancer care is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach. To truly make an impact, you must pay attention to the specific circumstances that play a role in an individual patient’s disease and access to care. You can then take what is learned and use it to further research how to make wide-ranging changes to the unique and enduring issues patients face in places like Pittsburgh and Minneapolis.

What else is planned for the Cancer and the Community series this year?

When we select destinations for the series, we consider cities that are leading the way in cancer research. Each of these communities has a distinct personality, as well as distinct challenges, but their unrelenting commitment in the fight against cancer is a common thread that strings them all together.

Our next Cancer and the Community stop will be in Seattle this December – and I’m already looking forward to the dialogue and proactive solutions that come out of it. 

Please visit our page and our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for more information and updates from the series.

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