Ellis Fischel Takes a Team Approach to Cancer Care

KSOC with patient

University of Missouri Health Care's Ells Fischel Cancer Center's team of physician specialists and other trained professionals work together with a common goal: to provide the latest treatments and improve the quality of life for thousands of people each year.

Six key aspects of the care delivered at Ellis Fischel set the center apart for Kevin Staveley-O’Carroll, MD, PhD, director of Ellis Fischel and chair of the Hugh E. Stephenson Jr., MD, Department of Surgery at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

1. A Team Approach

“Our care is multidisciplinary and hosts specialists from a variety of disciplines, essentially under one roof,” said Staveley-O’Carroll. “We bring together surgical, medical and radiation oncologists as part of every patient’s care team. Beyond that, we have navigators, nutritionists, palliative care specialists and physical therapists for our patients. It’s truly a team approach that allows us to treat the whole person.”

A medical oncologist uses medicines to treat cancer. A surgical oncologist treats cancer by removing tumors. A radiation oncologist uses radiation to shrink tumors and prevent them from returning. Depending on your type of cancer, you may need one, both or all three approaches to treatment. And we have additional team members to help you throughout your cancer journey including navigators, genetic counselors, nutritionists, palliative care specialists, and more.

Because not all cancers are the same, the providers at Ellis Fischel focus on different types of cancers. The multidisciplinary teams help patients and physicians navigate their care to ensure coordination between Ellis Fischel and community physicians in the following specialties:

2. A Family Atmosphere

“Our cancer center has a long and storied history as the first cancer center west of the Mississippi,” Staveley-O’Carroll said. “It’s a heritage that we’re proud of, and our clinicians and staff love working here. It really is a family atmosphere at Ellis. That engagement helps translate to better and more coordinated patient care.”

Staveley-O’Carroll cites the annual memorial service at Ellis Fischel as part of the family environment. It is a time that offers loved ones a chance to remember those they have lost to cancer.

“When I attend these memorials, it’s clear just how much our staff care for our patients and their families,” he said. “Unfortunately, not every cancer can be cured, and that loss is felt by us all. I am just in awe of the compassion our team shows for each patient.”

3. Patient Navigation

When patients are referred to Ellis Fischel, they are partnered with a navigator to serve as the point of contact for the patient and referring provider. That navigator will guide the patient through the multi-disciplinary team evaluation to the medical oncologist, the surgical oncologist and the radiation oncologist. There are 10 multidisciplinary disease teams at Ellis Fischel that specialize in different types of cancer. In addition to the doctors and nurses, there are social workers, dietitians, geneticists and supportive care specialists who will play a role in your treatment.

“In cancer, we’ve probably done the best job in all of medicine to coordinate the different disciplines to work together seamlessly,” Staveley-O’Carroll said. “Our teams meet and evaluate every single eligible patient.”

4. Convenience for Patients

As the state-designated cancer center, it is Ellis Fischel’s obligation to tailor the multi-disciplinary approach to patients who may not live near Columbia. Patients will get a consultation with the entire multidisciplinary team, but they may receive a portion of the care at a clinic closer to home.  

“A lot of our patients come from two or three hours away,” Staveley-O’Carroll said. “So, we work hard with our referring providers around the state and our patients to ensure they can get their medical oncology or radiation oncology care close to home and get the more advanced state-of-the-art surgical procedures or clinical trials at Ellis in Columbia.” 

5. Access to Clinical Trials

“We’re equipped to serve the people of Missouri for their specialized cancer care,” he said. “While that means specialized surgeries and therapies not offered at many other centers, it also means offering the very latest treatments through clinical trials.”

Through the clinical trials program at Ellis Fischel, patients can have access to treatments years before they become widely available. Research studies can give patients a head start in their recovery, and physicians can develop personalized treatment plans to best beat a patient’s cancer. It's all part of being an academic health system at MU Health Care.

6. Research Capabilities

“I often stress to people that here at MU, we are one of only six public universities that can claim a law school, a medical school and a veterinary medicine college on one campus,” Staveley-O’Carroll said. “Coupled with the nation’s most powerful university research reactor, we are primed to bring our basic science research from the bench to the bedside.

“The brainpower we have at Ellis Fischel and the MU School of Medicine is incredible,” he said. “Our specialized researchers are working diligently to advance cancer medicine in specialized areas such as tumor immunology.”

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