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USC Expands Cancer Care in Orange County

By Orange County Register

Categories: Cancer

For thousands of patients in Orange County, accessing specialized medical care at USC’s nationally recognized cancer center has been a challenge because of the distance.
Starting today, however, they won’t have to make the drive, thanks to an acquisition by USC’s medical arm, Keck Medicine of USC, of a well-known oncology and hematology center in Orange County.

The group is expected to announce the acquisition today for an undisclosed amount, as well as the news that the popular doctor who leads the O.C. practice, Louis VanderMolen, is now a member of the Keck School of Medicine of USC faculty, as well as four other physicians who work with him.
The deal creates an integrated cancer treatment network that links a major university medical center in Los Angeles with one of Orange County’s premier hospitals and a well-known oncology group. It means that patients who live in OC can get access to treatments at USC’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center locally.

Now, the more than 4,000 patients that VanderMolen sees in Newport Beach and Irvine will have access to clinical trials, teleconference tumor boards and genetic stem cell research performed at USC, he said.

Other doctors at the practice will become faculty as well, and staff members will become members of USC, said Thomas Jackiewicz, senior vice president of USC Health and CEO of Keck Medicine of USC.

It’s part of a larger move to create an integrated cancer care network in Orange County, which started with the announcement last year that Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and Keck Medicine of USC would collaborate on cancer care, Jackiewicz said.

“We knew people were starting to leave Orange County for cancer care,” Jackiewicz said. “We are going to partner, affiliate, acquire. ... It’s really about developing an integrated care network (in Orange County).”

Surgeons from USC have been going to Hoag for years, he said, but the acquisition of this clinic is the “first really big step” of making USC’s presence in Orange County “tangible on the ground.”
“USC is really on the move, and I think really going to make an impact on health care, patient care here in Southern California,” Jackiewicz said.

Patients will now head to the USC oncology/hematology centers in Newport Beach and Irvine, and the USC Infusion Center in Newport Beach that used to make up VanderMolen’s private practice, formerly known as Orange Coast Oncology Hematology Medical Associates.

Jackiewicz said the acquisition won’t result in any patients getting dropped from the practice and that the new facility will also accept those covered by the Affordable Care Act.

Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen Puliafito said he’s been getting requests for years from faculty and alumni for a center in Orange County. Currently, he said, the drive to Los Angeles can be an obstacle for patients.

“Transportation time and transportation difficulty is a huge determinant in where patients seek care,” Puliafito said, who added that acquiring the facilities will also provide new opportunity for advanced training for med students.

VanderMolen said USC brings scientific resources that Orange County doesn’t have.
“In order to create a world-class cancer program, we really need academic support, some of the specifics of the science, some of the technology that a private hospital doesn’t have, even a well-established hospital like Hoag,” VanderMolen said.

But USC will get something out of the deal as well, in the form of VanderMolen and his expertise.
As 79-year-old Donna Cross got a check-up and bone marrow test Tuesday, she praised her experience as VanderMolen’s patient of 11 years. She’s come up cancer-free after a battle with colon, liver and lung cancer, and a diagnosis of leukemia two months ago. Now, she’s hoping to cut back her chemotherapy pills.

“I feel that Dr. VanderMolen has been a real guiding star with everything,” Cross said. “I think he has the quality to teach (students): No. 1, caring and compassion. If you don’t have caring and compassion, the rest of the stuff doesn’t make any difference because people are going to be shaking in their boots the minute you say cancer,” she said. “It’s a fight, cancer is a fight, and you just have to know that you’re going to win. Sometimes you don’t. But the point is you’ve got to have a doctor that’s fighting with you, every step of the way.”

To view the original Orange County Register article, please clickhere.