Margo Shoup is a doctor on a mission. She moved from the Chicago area to Connecticut almost a year ago and has been the catalyst behind the creation of specialized disease teams targeting cancer care in a health system that covers an extensive area from western Connecticut up into the Hudson Valley of New York State.
In this unique situation, seven hospitals became Nuvance Health, a merger between Western Connecticut Health Network and Health Quest in early 2019. These hospitals are Putnam Hospital Center (Carmel, NY), Northern, Dutchess Hospital (Rhinebeck, NY), Vassar Brothers Medical (Poughkeepsie, NY), Sharon Hospital (Sharon, CT), New Milford Hospital (New Milford, CT), Danbury Hospital (Danbury, CT), and Norwalk Hospital (Norwalk, CT).
Dr. Shoup is creating collaborative disease teams throughout the system comprised of physicians that are focused on a specialty.
“Disease teams were the first initiatives I set up when I got here. We had some specialists who were treating GISTs in some locations but not all,” said Dr. Shoup. Shoup is the executive leader of the cancer program for the entire system. “I still see patients,” she continued, “but my role is largely administrative as I put together disease teams across the system to focus on specific cancers.”
How does this affect GIST? “For GIST, as an example, we have put together a GI disease team which is made up of our physicians that specialize in medical oncology, surgical oncology, gastroenterology, and our Navigators.”
Navigators are RNs whose goal is to be the point person for the patient, assisting with the coordination of appointments and answering questions and concerns about their care. Shoup feels the Navigators are a great asset to the system because “the patients have enough on their minds and coordinating all the aspects of cancer diagnosis, surgery, monitoring, and treatment is complex.”
The teams are formed by physicians who have decided on a focus area. The teams collaborate frequently, meeting about once a month to discuss processes, and what clinical trials to open. Cases are presented at the tumor boards and they discuss next steps in treatment.
“Generally, in community practice, oncologists don’t specialize but we feel strongly that cancer is complicated, and it can be struggle to keep up on the latest and most effective techniques and testing for the all cancers. We want our team to focus on one area that they can become an expert in.” said Dr. Shoup, “We need specialists that are knowledgeable about GIST and can detect it earlier.”
Danbury, Norwalk, and Vassar Brothers Medical are comprehensive cancer centers where surgeries take place while the others are community cancer centers where follow up care can be done so that patients don’t have to focus on so much stressful travel and can count more on their local support system of family and friends.
“We are building an academic quality cancer program for our patients with first-rate technology, highly trained specialists, and clinical trials (at the three larger sites). And although we do clinical trials, we’re not focused on individual research and grants. We are patient-focused, offering everything a major metropolitan cancer center has so that patients don’t have to travel long distances. Patients have enough on their minds, traveling long distances should not be necessary. We want to take care of the scheduling and coordination of care for them so they can concentrate on their health,” said Dr. Shoup.
For more information on Dr. Shoup and the team of oncologists/surgeons at Nuvance Health see: