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Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care named Health System – Patient Support Team of the Year

Seattle-based system recognized for work to increase colorectal cancer screening rates.

The American Cancer Society recently recognized the Veterans Affairs of Puget Sound Health Systems (Seattle, WA) with the 2022 Health System – Patient Support Team of the Year Award (small/midsize category). As part of a national effort to improve screening rates, ACS provided grant funding to health system partners to implement quality improvement strategies and evidence-based interventions to rapidly increase cancer screening rates and reduce screening barriers exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the Washington State 2021 Return to Screening Learning Collaborative, the VA focused on increased colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates in high-risk patients. The initiative brought the cancer center and primary care departments together to identify veterans past due on their CRC screenings, marking the first time the two departments had worked on a project jointly. A patient navigator was also hired and trained to focus on calling high-risk veteran patients overdue on their CRC screening. 

The initiative measured the impact of cold contacts (mailed education brochures) compared to warm, direct contacts (direct calls) and in a seven-month period, the VA reported a 22% increase in their colorectal cancer screenings rates. Through the project, the VA identified 20% of FIT kit positive high-risk patients had no follow up colonoscopy consult orders, and another 15% of FIT kit positive high-risk patients missed scheduling efforts. The VA planned to review the process at a 3 and 6-month interval following the project. A summary of the pilot project, including the pilot data outcomes, along with cost analysis is being used to build a proposal to support and strengthen the need for a permanent Patient Navigator position. ACS was excited to partner for the first time with the VA Puget Sound around the Return to Screening Project and looks forward to future collaborative work!

Award background

The Health System - Patient Support Team of the Year Award recognizes a health systems partner that has made astounding achievements in improving the lives of cancer patients and their families. Awardees provide exemplary healthcare to their patients in alignment with the American Cancer Society mission.

  • OSU – The James named Health System – Patient Support Team of the Year Award Winner

    Outstanding achievements in improving lives earns award in large system category.

    Congratulations to The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSU – The James), which was recently name the 2022 recipient of the Health System – Patient Support Team of the Year Award (Large system). OSU-The James collaborates with ACS to provide programs and services that engage communities across Ohio with a special focus on health equity. 

    Last year, OSU – The James embarked on a unique collaboration with the American Cancer Society, which included programmatic and financial elements to amplify impact across the state. In addition to robust event support in the amount of $250,000, the OSU-The James also donated $100,000 earmarked for health equity projects. This strengthened the partnership between ACS and the Center for Cancer Health Equity at OSU-The James as we worked together on three projects for the year. 

    • The Ohio State University participated in the nation’s first ECHO series dedicated to improving cancer related care for the LGBTQ+ community. 
    • OSU also shared its expertise in health equity to partner with Heart of Ohio and the African American Male Wellness Agency in support of the Health Equity Community Project ECHO on Medical Mistrust in Relation to Colorectal Cancer Screening. They also provided resources for a cervical cancer Get Screened campaign targeting underserved women across the state. 
    • The Ohio State University helped introduce young women across Ohio to careers in oncology as a partner in SHE: Summer Healthcare Experience in Oncology Program, a two-week program the engages young women in careers in STEM.  

    On the advocacy front, OSU - The James has supported several pieces of legislation at the state level that increases access to care for cancer patients and is currently supporting a legislative effort to ensure every cancer patient in Ohio has access to public or private insurance coverage of comprehensive biomarker testing. Their advocacy on issues that impact cancer treatment is helping to reduce the burden of cancer and saving lives.

    In 2023, Black Impact 2.0 will build on the success of Black Impact 100 and will recruit black men seeking to improve their health. ACS will join the effort by educating on the importance of screenings. The project also addresses social determinants of health, offers implicit bias training to providers, and increases the enrollment of Black men in clinical trials.  

    In addition, OSU – The James partners with ACS to promote patient support services and initiatives by solely using ACS educational materials throughout the entire comprehensive cancer center, utilizing the emergency lodging and transportation grants, and recruiting Road To Recovery drivers through the OSU VolunteerMatch program. Also of note is the amazing volunteer leadership provided to ACS from OSU-The James. Kris Kipp, executive director, Clinical Services of OSU-The James, has served as the Chair of the Ohio/West Virginia Board and Dr. Elecktra Paskett was chosen by CEO Dr. Karen Knudson to sit on the Steering Committee for the National Patient Navigation Roundtable. 

    Award background

    The Health System / Patient Support Team of the Year Award recognizes a health systems partner that has made astounding achievements in improving the lives of cancer patients and their families. Awardees provide exemplary healthcare to their patients in alignment with the American Cancer Society mission.

  • Jimmie Wells named Lane Adams Quality of Life Award winner

    Longtime volunteer and oncology nurse honored for service to patients.

    Jimmie Wells, RN, MSN, OCN, of Jackson, MS, is a longtime ACS volunteer and has 35 years of experience in adult oncology nursing. In addition to being an Oncology Survivorship Navigator and chemotherapy nurse, she also serves as a congregational health nurse, nurse educator/consultant, and the director-at-large for the Central Mississippi Chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society. Jimmie volunteers as the Statewide Coalition Chair for the Mississippi Partnership for Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition (MP3C) within the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) who is a key partner with the American Cancer Society. 

    In addition to help launching the MSDH Pack Health program, which is a survivorship health coaching program, Jimmie also goes above and beyond to plan and coordinate the See, Test & Treat free mammogram and Pap test screening program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. This unique event helps to expand outreach to patients in underserved communities who may not otherwise seek care.  

    Jimmie has been a valuable member of the ACS led Mississippi HPV Roundtable since its inception in February 2020 and serves on the parent and community workgroup. Most recently, she has joined the newly formed and ACS led Mississippi Lung Cancer Roundtable (MSLCRT) and is co-chairing the Survivorship workgroup while also working with the other co-chairs to develop the MSLCRT’s strategic plan for 2023. Jimmie’s strong connections in healthcare, the community and with her patients are immeasurable and she has a huge impact on cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship in Mississippi.

    Congratulations to Jimmie and many thanks for her commitment to patients with cancer, families and communities.

    Award background

    The Lane Adams Quality of Life Award is a national distinction reserved for those unique caregivers who lead in their areas of expertise and make a significant impact on patients with cancer, families, and communities. Award winners are chosen each year from the following categories: doctors, nurses, social workers, and others. All winners provide direct care, counsel, and/or service to patients with cancer and their families.

  • ACS NCCRT announces national achievement award winners

    Honor recognizes efforts to increase colorectal cancer screening.

    Five organizations were honored Tuesday for exceptional work to increase colorectal cancer screening rates in communities across the nation. The American Cancer Society National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (ACS NCCRT) announced the winners of its 2023 80% In Every Community National Achievement Award: one grand prize winner and four other honorees.

    The 80% in Every Community National Achievement Awards are designed to recognize individuals and organizations who are dedicating their time, talent, and expertise to advancing needed initiatives that support the shared goal to reach colorectal screening rates of 80% and higher in communities across the nation. Each award winner receives a monetary award to support continued efforts to increase colorectal cancer screenings.  

    The awards announcement comes on the heels of last week’s release of Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures, a new report by the American Cancer Society, which shows colorectal cancer is swiftly shifting to more advanced disease and younger individuals. The report also shows an estimated 153,020 people will be diagnosed with colorectal in the US in 2023 and 52,550 people will die from the disease.

    “Unfortunately, we’ve seen a shift toward more advance disease, while screening rates continue to remain low,” ACS Chief Patient Officer Dr. Arif Kamal said in a news release Tuesday. “While we must continue investing in research to discover new treatments for advanced-stage colorectal cancer, we must also work to increase screening rates. We applaud these organizations for their work to do just that.” 

    This year's recipients include CommUnityCare Health Centers and Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX; Colorado Cancer Screening Program, Denver, CO; Kintegra Health, Gastonia, NC; Ohio Association of Community Health Centers, Columbus, Ohio; Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, Seattle, WA.  

    More details about this year's recipients:  

    Grand Prize Winner: 

    Category: Innovative Partnership 

    • CommUnityCare Health Centers and Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin: CommUnityCare Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Center, provides medical and dental services to more than 123,000 central Texas residents, including people whose income and lack of health insurance prevent them from accessing care elsewhere. Working in partnership with the University of Texas Austin's Dell Medical School and supported by funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the partnering organizations undertook a multi-year effort to increase colorectal cancer (CRC) screening among eligible CommUnityCare patients. The team implemented a multi-faceted intervention that featured mailed stool-based testing and bilingual, bi-cultural screening navigation to ensure positive (abnormal) Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) results were followed by timely colonoscopy. Since 2017, more than 58,000 FITs have been sent out to age-eligible patients, and nearly 13,500 patients have completed testing. In less than five years, CommUnityCare has doubled the proportion of patients up to date with CRC screening (from 19% to 44%) with no disparities based on insurance status, race, or ethnicity. To date, the program has detected 16 colorectal cancers (70% early stage) and removed more than 195 adenomas. 

    ACS Regional Involvement: Team members work with the lead at Dell Medical School on other select projects.

    Category: State-Based Screening Program 

    • Colorado Cancer Screening Program: Founded in 2006, the Colorado Cancer Screening Program (CCSP) is a statewide program of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, fueled by the academic and public health expertise of the Colorado School of Public Health and funding from the Cancer, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Disease (CCPD) Grant Program. CCSP partners with Federally Qualified Health Centers, rural health clinics, and other safety-net clinic systems to use evidence-based approaches to reduce disparities in CRC screening, lung cancer screening, and hereditary cancer risk assessment. Patient navigators and health care teams support low-income patients with overcoming barriers and increasing access to care through patient education, care coordination, client reminders, and addressing social determinants to health. CCSP clinics have navigated average-risk and high-risk patients into 9,582 colonoscopies during the current grant cycle to-date (July 2018-June 2022) and >36,800 total colonoscopies since 2006. CCSP supports several clinic systems with strengthening their stool-based testing approaches and will soon be expanding the program to additional evidence-based interventions to further support efforts to reach 80% screening rates.

    ACS Regional Involvement: ACS regional staff have worked closely with CCSP for years. 

    Category: Community Health Center 

    • Kintegra Health: Founded in 1991, Kintegra Health provides continuing comprehensive and accessible primary care services to individuals and families of all economic levels at more than 30 practice sites in North Carolina. Following a drop in CRC screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Kintegra Health began partnering with North Carolina Partnership to Increase CRC Screenings (NC PICCS), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program, to increase CRC screenings in four of the organization’s practices in Lincolnton, Hickory, and Gastonia. In addition to receiving ongoing technical assistance from NC PICCS, the four practice sites participated in the American Cancer Society’s Tri-state Quality Improvement Learning Collaborative, developed AIM statements, performed process mapping, gap analyses, PDSA cycles, implemented evidence-based interventions, including patient reminders, and reduced structural barriers. Kintegra Health has successfully negotiated a colonoscopy cost rate well below the Medicare rate and developed a medical neighborhood for sustainability. Within a year, all four practices reported increased CRC screening rates ranging between 15 to 34 percentage points.

    ACS Regional Involvement: ACS regional staff were instrumental in the success by providing training and technical assistance through the QI learning collaborative.

    Category: State Primary Care Association  

    • Ohio Association of Community Health Centers: The Ohio Association of Community Health Centers (OACHC) supports all of Ohio's 57 Federally Qualified Health Centers and FQHC Look-Alikes (more commonly referred to community health centers or CHCs), providing care to nearly one million Ohioans across 480+ sites in 75 of the 88 counties. CHCs are nonprofit health care providers that deliver affordable, quality comprehensive primary care to medically under-resourced populations, regardless of insurance status. OACHC leads many projects in support of improved patient outcomes through quality improvement initiatives. Since 2016, more than 25 CHCs have implemented FluFIT: a program where patients eligible for CRC screening are offered are offered a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) at the time of their annual influenza vaccination. In collaboration with the regional American Cancer Society, OACHC provides participating CHCs with comprehensive training, technical assistance, and data collection tools. The performance for CHCs participating in the FluFIT program has grown from a rate of 32% screened in 2020 to 40% in 2021.  

    ACS Regional Involvement: ACS regional staff were instrumental in the success by providing training and technical assistance on FluFIT. 

    Category: Hospital/Health System  

    • Virginia Mason Franciscan Health: Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH) provides expert, compassionate medical care at 10 hospitals and nearly 300 care sites throughout the Puget Sound region of Washington State. In 2019, the Franciscan Medical Group (FMG), part of the VMFH system, set a goal to increase CRC screening rates to 70% and higher among patients served by its primary care sites in King, Pierce, and Kitsap Counties. Working in partnership with the American Cancer Society as a Hospital Systems Capacity Building community of practice site, FMG used Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycles to test and implement systems changes to increase CRC screening, including standardized outreach methods, shared decision making, data scorecards, and staff and patient education. FMG’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Challenge, an annual eight-week annual initiative, also provides clinicians and staff with engaging incentives for meeting performance targets. CRC screening among the 85,000 patients eligible for CRC screening increased from 58% in February 2019 to 69% as of November 2022, a considerable achievement given the challenges to health care delivery posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    ACS Regional Involvement: ACS regional staff were instrumental in the success through VMFH's role as an ACS Hospital Systems Capacity Building community of practice site. 

    Interested in learning more about the 2023 awardees? Register to join NCCRT’s annual Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month webcast on March 23 from 2:00-3:00 pm ET. To learn more about the NCCRT, and the 80% In Every Community initiative, visit

  • Leslie Hecht honored for mission-driven patient support

    New Jersey native earns Patient Support Volunteer Award for Excellence.

    Leslie Hecht was recently named the 2022 recipient of the Patient Support Volunteer Award for Excellence. The New Jersey native has been an American Cancer Society volunteer for more than two decades, starting in the Jersey Shore market as a volunteer with the Cancer Ball, one of the largest galas in the country at the time. While the Cancer Ball was her foray into volunteer work with ACS, that soon expanded with the opening of the New York City Hope Lodge 15 years ago. Leslie brought her skills as a master level knitter to the Hope Lodge and started a weekly knitting circle and afternoon tea. Anywhere from six to 12 patients and caregivers join her Wednesday weekly session, which typically lasts three to four hours. 

    It’s estimated that Leslie’s total volunteer time dedicated to the Hope Lodge is approximately 5,000 hours during the last 15 years. In fact, Leslie travels two hours roundtrip from New Jersey each week to volunteer and was the first volunteer to return to Hope Lodge following the pandemic. She is a generous supporter of ACS events and initiatives including the NYC Hope Lodge Bash, Mother of the Year campaign, Relay For Life Hope Lodge event, and Hope Lodge capital campaign which raised funds to support the opening of the building. 

    Thank you for your commitment to our mission, Leslie!

  • Join the ACS NCCRT for a Colorectal Cancer Month Webcast

    Register today and invite others to this key event.

    Looking for ways to learn more about colorectal cancer, for chances to consider how we can make the most impact against this disease, or for opportunities to help others get engaged in this effort? The ACS National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable is holding an event this month that is sure to fit the bill.

    The ACS NCCRT will hold its annual National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month webcast on Thursday, March 23, from 2-3 p.m. ET. The event will feature three areas of particular interest to ACS team members: 

    • The latest state of the field updates that inform our work: A look at ACS work to advance colorectal cancer screening through the ACS NCCRT and the Patient Support Pillar’s grant programs. 
    • A deep dive into the recently released Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures with speaker Rebecca Siegel, ACS senior scientific director, surveillance research.
    • Showcase of the work of NCCRT’s five 2023 80% in Every Community National Achievement Awardees, many of which worked closely with regional ACS team members to accomplish their success.

    Other speakers at the event will include NCCRT co-chairs Steven Itzkowitz, MD, and Robert Smith, PhD; Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH, director, division of cancer prevention and control, Centers for Disease Control; and others.

    This event is free. Team members and volunteers are encouraged to:

    Learn more and register for the event here: 

  • ACS receives $2.8 million grant from AstraZeneca

    On Feb. 23, the American Cancer Society announced that AstraZeneca has committed $2.8 million toward the American Cancer Society’s Navigation Capacity-Building Initiative Grant Program. The program is part of ACS’ commitment to enhancing oncology patient navigation and addressing barriers to individualized, timely, and equitable care for cancer patients and their families.

    Patient navigation is one of the only evidence-based interventions to effectively help eliminate health disparities and improve health equity across the cancer continuum. ACS and AstraZeneca’s continued partnership will help expand access to patient navigation by addressing barriers to individualized, timely, and equitable means of entry to care for cancer patients.

    “Strategic partnerships have always been critical in our goal to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. We are excited to have the support of our longtime partner, AstraZeneca, to strengthen our patient support navigation programs,” said Chief Executive Officer Dr. Karen E. Knudsen. “These programs are critical in addressing health inequities for cancer patients, especially those that face the greatest barriers to care.”

    For more than 15 years, ACS and AstraZeneca have collaborated in developing and growing ACS’ Patient Navigation programs. Most recently, AstraZeneca awarded ACS with an additional $250,000 grant to expand the Health Equity Ambassadors network. The network helps increase cancer prevention, early detection education, and community collaboration within medically underserved populations to deliver critical cancer-related information and resources.

    Visit the ACS News Room to view the press announcement and help amplify this exciting news by engaging on LinkedIn and Twitter.

  • Make cancer prevention a priority

    ​Take The Defender quiz today!

    The American Cancer Society is bringing awareness to the many types of cancer and the impact cancer has on lives, the economy and worldwide care. One goal is to boost cancer prevention by identifying modifiable risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, poor diet and lack of exercise. A tool created to help identify those risk factor is The Defender, a free, online cancer risk assessment tool developed in partnership with the NFL. Participants answer a few questions, and in minutes, an action plan is provided with personalized MVP Tips — the ‘Most Valuable Prevention’ Tips.

    While you are assessing your cancer risk factors, by taking The Defender quiz, you are also supporting a good cause. From Jan. 30 until Feb. 20, 2023, Sleep Number will donate $100 to the American Cancer Society – up to $50,000 – for every person who takes The Defender online quiz. Participants will also also get a chance to win autographed NFL memorabilia and a Sleep Number 360® p5 smart bed.  During Super Bowl LVII, Sleep Number teamed up onsite with the American Cancer Society and the NFL, hosting The Defender tool inside its content studio at the media center.

    What does cancer have to do with sleep, you ask?

    The powerhouse partnership between ACS and Sleep Number kicked off in February 2022 with the announcement of a landmark study on the connections between cancer and sleep. During a period of six years, 13+ billion hours of Sleep Number 360® smart bed data will be analyzed alongside data from ongoing cancer prevention studies. The goal is to determine the influence of quality sleep on reducing cancer risk and improving outcomes for cancer patients and survivors. Sleep Number also provides smart beds and other sleep innovations to American Cancer Society's Hope Lodges to support patients and caregivers when they need to stay away from home during cancer treatment.

    “When people face a cancer diagnosis, one of the most common barriers to receiving timely, high-quality care is actually access to lodging," said ACS Chief Patient Officer Dr. Arif Kamal, pictured here, second from left.

    For Sleep Number's support of ACS's mission via joint research, funding and support of its Hope Lodges, Sleep Number was named American Cancer Society's 2022 Corporate Partner of the Year. As the study moves forward and sleep data collection continues, stay in the game, get your stats — and enter for a chance to win a Sleep Number 360® smart bed while learning more about how to lower your cancer risk factors.  Boosting wellbeing through quality sleep is one of your best defenses against cancer. 

    Take The Defender Quiz today!

  • Webinar to explore food insecurity among cancer survivors

    Accredited activity will address strategies to support patients. 

    The American Cancer Society is proud to partner with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to host a live, interactive webinar on March 14 on the issue of food insecurity among cancer survivors.

    The webinar is accredited for 1.0 free CE credit/contact hour for registered nurses and social workers. All health care professionals working with cancer survivors, as well as ACS team members and partners, are encouraged to attend. This continuing education activity is provided free of charge.

    The webinar, Food to Address Outcomes: Strategies to Support Patients with Cancer Facing Food Insecurity, will:

    • Describe the prevalence of food insecurity in patients with cancer and how it influences patient outcomes.
    • Explain how to effectively screen for food insecurity in the clinical setting.
    • Assess opportunities to implement food access programming and identify potential collaborators.
    • Identify methods to provide access to healthy food resources.
    • Provide resources, tools, and tips for patient support.

    The webinar is set for Tuesday, March 14, from 1 - 2 p.m. ET. For more information and to register for the event, click here.

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