Last week, I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer, in person and a short drive from my home office to the SAS Institute Executive Briefing Center. Though it was my first time attending, it was not long before I was struck by the common issues that we all seem to be facing. The first day of panel discussions heavily emphasized the need for equitable access, health literacy, and trust and transparency from multiple vantage points – government, non-profit, corporate, health systems, and higher education. On the second day, a bold call to action and the role that we each play in addressing the global cancer burden was the prevalent theme.
Here, I’ll share the key points that resonated:
- Gary A. Puckrein, President & CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum: The barriers to participation in clinical trials include knowledge, financial/transportation, trust, support network, and insurance —not unlike the barriers to healthcare and healthy behaviors.
- Marc Watkins, CMO for Kroger Health: We need to change the way healthcare is delivered, and data (like Kroger’s “data lake”) is the path to personalized solutions. We will not be able to solve the cancer burden until we begin to view “food as medicine.”
- Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) are ready and willing partners to work on health equity. I met phenomenal women from Dillard University, Meharry Medical College, and Shaw University—just a few of the HBCUs represented at the meeting. Cynthia Warrick, President of Stillman College, explained how a food desert impacting her campus has led to the creation of a community garden and demonstration kitchen.
- Staying on the topic of data and diversity: Corporations were challenged to provide data analytics internships for HBCU students, and pharma was challenged to work with HBCUs for clinical trials.
- Rachel Ford from Dillard University detailed what real partnership looks like: paid internships with housing and transportation, classroom opportunities to work with real data, faculty internships, and investment in social media influencers.
- Cancer Stage Shifting Initiative (shiftcancer.org): Dr. Puckrein reminded us that “stage-shifting requires collaboration” between data resources and minority communities, building trust through networks and active participation, and building cancer social media to combat disinformation.
- Communication provides an opportunity but requires a proactive approach. Misinformation quickly becomes “dominant logic.”
- John Williams, Chair of the President’s Cancer Panel: The 2022 report, Closing Gaps in Cancer Screening for All Americans, identifies barriers to cancer screening, opportunities to improve access and communications, and recommendations to help medical teams work more effectively. Making the cancer screening guidelines computable is a goal.
The CEO Roundtable on Cancer started in 2000 with a personal challenge from President George H. W. Bush to “Be bold and adventuresome.” We need to venture outside of our silos, treat individuals as whole persons, and view these big, hairy, audacious goals from all angles. “Let us not go back to that pre-pandemic default.”