CRCHD: Building on a Solid Foundation for Success
As we enter the final stretch of 2005, a glance back at the past 8 months offers a powerful reminder that NCI is an organization of constant innovation and change. Whether it's the proteomics and nanotechnology initiatives, or early efforts to characterize the human cancer genome, the NCI machinery is always pulsing at near breakneck pace.
An integral part of this machinery is the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD), which has been under the superb leadership of Dr. Harold Freeman since its establishment in 2001. Dr. Freeman's role at NCI is about to change. He will no longer serve as CRCHD Director, but instead will serve as a senior advisor to the NCI Director on strategies to achieve the 2015 goal in minority and underserved communities.
Dr. Freeman also will be involved in other areas, including serving as a conduit between NCI and federal health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration. For example, he will collaborate with CDC to create a joint NCI-CDC task force on patient navigation.
Dr. Freeman will also continue his pioneering work with patient navigator programs. Dr. Freeman's passion for and contributions toward ensuring the continued growth and evolution of these programs are enormous.
I would like to thank Dr. Freeman for his guidance and mentorship. We are fortunate that he will still be part of the NCI team. He has shared his unique vision, exceptional leadership, and unswerving commitment to improve the delivery of cancer services to populations in need of them.
CRCHD will continue to be a vital part of NCI, maintaining its direct reporting relationship to the NCI Director. Dr. Sanya Springfield, head of the NCI Comprehensive Minority Medical Branch, will serve as acting director, working closely with Dr. Mark Clanton, deputy director for Cancer Care Delivery Systems. A national search for a director will be launched in the near future.
Our commitment to addressing cancer health disparities is strong and will grow stronger, thanks in large part to initiatives such as the recently announced Community Networks Program (CNP). With $95 million in funding for 25 projects, the CNP will focus on addressing disparities instead of identifying and raising awareness about them.
Unfortunately, there is still much to do. Studies continue to highlight discrepancies in care. As reported in this week's Bulletin, for instance, a new study reports that older black patients were less likely to receive chemotherapy after surgery to treat colon cancer - the standard of care - than white patients. This was influenced by several factors, including social support and environmental factors - an apt demonstration that tackling disparities is a tall task that requires immediate and lasting attention.
Addressing disparities in cancer care - and all health care - must remain one of our country's top priorities. NCI is committed to supporting the research and delivering effective interventions, something that, thanks to the efforts of people like Dr. Harold Freeman, we are well positioned to do.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach