University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

A Dedicated Past, a Promising Future: Cancer Symposium Shines Spotlight on ZSFG Excellence

By Karen Gehrman | HDFCCC Communications | February 12, 2020

A Dedicated Past, a Promising Future: Cancer Symposium Shines Spotlight on ZSFG Excellence

Terence Friendlander, MD, discusses the variety of services offered as a safety net for vulnerable populations with cancer at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG).

Even with more than 125 years of caring for San Francisco residents, the faculty and staff at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General (ZSFG) and UCSF find that some issues need more than time to resolve. In this case, it’s the inequities and barriers to care that the historically underserved still face.
 
Addressing disparities in cancer services, treatment, and research was the focus of the first ZSFG Cancer Symposium held in January 2020. The sold-out symposium brought together scientists, clinicians, and support staff across UCSF to consider the unique needs of the diverse patient population in the city's only public hospital.  

For organizer Terence Friedlander, MD, Chief of Hematology-Oncology at ZSFG, the symposium was an opportunity to highlight current cancer research centered around the hospital's unique patient population, as well as the challenges and opportunities the ethnically, culturally, and economically diverse community provides. “We serve a wide variety of patients and we see a lot of different types of cancers. Getting researchers together in the same room together is critical to understanding a lot of the barriers our patients face, and hopefully fostering more collaborative research.” 

A History of Addressing Disparities

The relationship between ZSFG and UCSF goes back to 1873 when the City and County of San Francisco partnered with the University of California to provide health care services and train doctors. Today, UCSF cancer physicians train and conduct research at ZSFG, where the diverse population allows for extension of services to the most at-risk communities. 

The symposium's agenda addressed healthy equity in current cancer, patient navigation and survivorship resources, and key cancers more commonly treated at ZSFG. Speakers and participants identified a range of approaches that could be aligned to address disparities, from tailoring survivorship materials to the language and literacy level of their audiences to examining how best to grow the field of disparities research. 

By the Numbers
Over 2,000 UCSF physicians and staff from all four UCSF professional schools and the Division of Graduate Studies work alongside 3,500 employees of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

ZSFG is one of UCSF’s primary teaching hospitals, where medical residents train under UCSF faculty and city staff. A comprehensive medical center, ZSFG serves some 100,000 patients per year and provides 20 percent of the city’s inpatient care.
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A common theme throughout the presentations was the need to increase access and participation in clinical trials for ZSFG patients. Trial participation offers patients better access to life saving treatment and adds much needed diversity to clinical trial data. Dr. Friedlander noted that while enrollment in  clinical trials at ZSFGH grew from four in 2017 to 42 in 2019, that patient population remains significantly underrepresented in clinical trials – thus underserved.
 

A panel discussion addressed how to elevate the field of disparities research, such as serving on review panels for trials, or providing mentorship to younger faculty so that awareness of disparities are woven into all facets of cancer research. The afternoon presentations touched on HPV and HIV-related virally mediated cancers. ZSFG has been a world leader in HIV research and care since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and research presented offered promising solutions for low resource settings abroad which could be relevant to ZSFG patients. Patient advocate Antwan Capla of Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness San Francisco reported on the success of their efforts to bolster self-advocacy and empowerment among the Sickle Cell Disease community. Ward Hagar, MD, director the Sickle Cell Disease Program at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, echoed the importance of proactively managing this disease, as it carries an increased risk for hematologic cancers.

 

ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020

Kim Rhoads, MD, MS, MPH, director of the HDFCCC Office of Community Engagement moderates a lively Health Equity panel discussion on advancing disparities research.  


At the conclusion of the symposium, HDFCCC president Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, announced he would create two awards totally $150K to stimulate research that helps the particular needs of patients at ZSFG. RFAs for these awards will be released later this month.  With many multi-disciplinary programs spread across UCSF locations and departments, campus-specific events like the ZSFG Cancer Symposium, the Parnassus Cancer Research Symposia, and a recently organized mini-symposium at the VA, can help connect faculty and resources, encourage collaboration, and shine a light on some of UCSF's hidden gems of cancer research and patient care.


Disparities Research: In their own words

“Not everyone is benefitting from the advances made.  Despite a long history of cancer disparities research at UCSF, we still need both more diverse participants and more diverse providers to minimize that gap.”

Rena Pasick, DrPH, Former director of the Office of Community Engagement at HDFCCC
“We need to really look at what is happening for patients in the health care system, their anxiety and fear, their being overwhelmed with information. It is important to understand what information they get and how they get it.”

Nynikka Palmer, MD, MPH, on patient feedback from the SFCAN Prostate Cancer Task Force
“Innovating is key in health equity - I dont think we are going to get different results doing things the same way.”

Urmimala Sarkar, MD, MPH, uses social media and atypical partnerships to reach her target audiences
“Navigators serve many important roles with patients, from connecting them to community partners for meals and transportation, to troubleshooting insurance forms.”

Barbara Cicerelli, MPA, Cancer Navigation Program Director at ZSFG


A birds-eye view: Participants report via Twitter


ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020

ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020
ZSFG Cancer Symposium 2020