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#AMCCBS: Recognizing Excellence + Leadership Training

March 6, 2024

On Friday, March 1, the Association of Cancer Care Centers (ACCC) concluded its 50th Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit (#AMCCBS). The day began with the announcement of Nadine J. Barrett, PhD, MA, MS, senior associate dean for Community Engagement and Equity in Research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Atrium Health and associate director, Community Outreach and Engagement at Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center and Levine Cancer Institute, as the 2024-2025 ACCC President. “As the incoming ACCC president, I am excited to announce my theme: Reimagining Community Engagement and Equity in Cancer,” Dr. Barrett said. “With this theme, I am encouraging all of us as ACCC to ensure that the work we are doing engages our community’s and puts our patients at the center as we continue to move forward in advancing equity in cancer.”

Following her message, Dr. Barrett acknowledged the 2024 ACCC Award winners. These individuals were recognized for their significant contributions to patient care, the practice of clinical care and research, and the greater oncology community. 

Award Presentations

The Clinical Research Award, which recognizes individuals whose research has significantly and positively impacted the oncology patient, family, and/or community was presented to Robert Winn, MD, director, and lipman chair in Oncology, VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Dr. Winn walks the talk, all day, every day, with his commitment to advancing equity. He ensures that we look at our patients and our communities as experts in their own right,” Dr. Barrett said. “I am truly humbled to introduce and welcome up to the stage, my friend, my colleague, and my champion, our champion for the cause, Dr. Robert Winn.”  

“I want to thank ACCC for all the work that you do,” Dr. Winn said as he accepted the award. Then he asked the audience an important question: Why the need for change? “It is easy to figure out why folks don’t trust us. They see all these organizations working to eradicate cancer, and they don't feel included in the process,” he said. “If you want to change a system, don’t just do something different, do a different thing.”

Dr. Winn’s words embodied the ethos of Dr. Barrett’s theme: it is difficult to care for a community that experiences medical mistrust. Dr. Winn believes trust is built by creating informed, collaborative partnerships, in which the patient is respected as an equal and expert. “ACCC allows us to do a different thing,” Dr. Winn said. “Our organizations need to have a different type of talk, not about what will be taken, but what will be brought to the table.” 

Regarding the issue of trust Dr. Winn argues that the cancer care community has been asking the wrong question. “The question should not be how do we get trust, but how do we as an institution become more trustworthy,” he said Dr. Winn believes trust is especially important in recruiting clinical trial participants. “We have to rethink how we are conducting clinical trials,” he said. “We must recognize blind spots, reflect and figure out how we can do better.” 

Dr. Winn reminded a captivated audience that while health care workers discuss medical illiteracy among their patients, they too must be aware of their own community illiteracy that needs to be addressed. “What if we do a different thing by training the next generation [oncology workforce] to not only know about the science of clinical trials, but about the communities they take place in,” he said. “Our organizations need to realize that while we exist, we exist as a group. If we start having a different conversation within our communities, what will be possible?”

“Innovation does not equal impact for all—equally.”

In concluding his address, Dr. Winn shared his optimism for the future of community engagement across the cancer care continuum and left attendees with a call to action. “Let us remember that through grace and humility, there is power. We are much more powerful together than we are separate.” 

The David King Community Clinical Scientist Award, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated leadership in the development, participation, and evaluation of clinical studies and/or active in the development of new screening, risk assessment, treatment, or supportive care programs for patient with cancer was presented to Christa M. Braun-Inglis, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, AOCNP, nurse practitioner and assistant researcher at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center. 

“Thank you to everybody at ACCC, who thought enough of me to receive this award,” Dr. Braun-Inglis said upon accepting the award. Like Dr. Winn, Dr. Braun-Inglis highlighted the importance of engaging the community in clinical research and trials. Further, she wagers that advanced practice providers add value to clinical research team in all aspects of clinical trials. Thus, cancer programs and practices must reassess the lens through which they view clinical research staff. 

Improving Leadership

The second keynote address at #AMCCBS was delivered by Katherine A. Meese, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Health Services Administration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Meese shared insights on how leaders can strengthen their workforce by focusing on “the human margin.” According to Dr. Meese, leaders must equip their employees with the tools to navigate independently, for as she puts it, “autonomy without skills is cruelty.” Further, Dr, Meese argues that to maximize productivity, employees must understand the end goal, priorities, and values of their organization. “When they can see the map, they can get to the destination,” she said.

Dr. Meese believes the benefit of clear and open communication cannot be overstated. “According to a Gallup poll, employees are 73% less likely to feel burned out at work when they strongly agree that the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization,” she said. “Employees are also 2.8 times more likely to be engaged when they speak with their manager regularly about their goals and progress.”

To improve communication at their organizations, Dr. Meese shared these conversations starters leaders can adopt:

  • I work for you, what do you want me to work on?
  • What worries you the most?
  • What do you find most rewarding about your work?
  • What challenges are you currently facing in your work?

With the oncology workforce experiencing an unprecedented level of burnout, having these conversations must become a standard procedure at cancer centers and programs. “Seventy-five percent of healthcare executives were burned out in 2022 compared to 60% in 2018,” Dr. Meese said. “The suicide rate for female physicians is 1.46 times higher and approximately 4,800 years' worth of education and training is lost to physician suicide each year.”

Dr. Meese argues that these figures emphasize the importance of improving the wellbeing of the oncology workforce. “Creating a healthy workforce is not just important for meeting the broader goals of the organization but for improving the health of the community,” she said. “Employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall wellbeing are: 3 times more likely to be engaged, 69% less likely to search for a new job, 71% less likely to report burnout, and 36% more likely to be thriving in their overall lives.” Thus, as the broader cancer care community pushes to consistently innovate, it must ensure that those who make that possible are healthy in mind and body, to carry on the life-changing work they do. Through meetings like #AMCCBS, ACCC hopes to create an environment where that goal remains a priority. 

Read more about #AMCCBS with ACCCBuzz's coverage of Wednesday and Thursday's events.

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