By Amy E. Hamaker

The foremost mission of the UniHealth Foundation, an independent private health care foundation founded in 1998, is to support pacesetting programs that positively impact health in the communities it serves. Two recent grants from the foundation totaling $1.1 million will help support vital programs at USC that are making a real difference to the Health Sciences Campus community and its patients.

The first is a grant of $500,000 over two years to the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center to support the Adolescent and Young Adult Program (AYA@USC).

Patients of Keck Medicine’s AYA@USC Program, pictured here during a recent surfing expedition, will be helped through a recent grant by the UniHealth Foundation. (Photo/Joel Milam)

Patients of Keck Medicine’s AYA@USC Program, pictured here during a recent surfing expedition, will be helped through a recent grant by the UniHealth Foundation.
(Photo/Joel Milam)

AYA@USC, in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, was created specifically to meet the needs of cancer patients between the ages of 15 and 39. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 70,000 U.S. adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year, and survival rates for this population have not improved in almost 30 years. AYA@USC tailors many existing clinical programs, expands social services and strengthens and expands research with a focus on the distinct needs of AYA@USC patients.

The grant will help the program, co-led by Stuart Siegel, MD, associate director for pediatric oncology at the cancer center and professor/vice chair of pediatrics at the Keck School, and Debu Tripathy, MD, professor of medicine at the Keck School, to implement the Clinical Core for AYA@USC.

“The UniHealth grant will help us launch the clinical end of the program,” explained Siegel. “We will be able to implement a database to allow us to see the population of AYAs with cancer in the USC system, assess their support needs and make sure they get them in a timely fashion, ensure that each medical team has a champion for the correct protocols and treatments evolving for this age group, and who can identify  research protocols that are available.”

The second grant totals $600,000 over three years to provide support for restructuring graduate medical education (GME). The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which accredits all GME institutions and programs, recently implemented a major transformation for seven core specialties in GME structure and focus. This change is called the Next GME Accreditation System (NAS). Accreditation will be mainly dependent on patient safety and quality improvement outcomes. Changes in the remaining 19 core specialties will be implemented in July 2014.

The grant will help Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education Lawrence Opas maintain the meritorious GME accreditation cycles for the Keck School’s 57 residency programs. Opas and his team will be able to secure the personnel needed to educate and supervise residents and faculty in innovative patient safety/quality improvement initiatives, monitor outcomes and disseminate best practices through national publications.

“UniHealth Foundation saw the successful development of the AYA Oncology Program at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center under Dr. Seigel’s capable leadership. We anticipate that under the umbrella of a comprehensive cancer center, this program will continue to deliver meet the unique clinical needs of young adult cancer patients as well as survivors of childhood cancers,” said Mary Odell, UniHealth Foundation president. “We also value the important role Keck plays in graduate medical education and the provision of specialty clinical services to underserved residents of Los Angeles County. We hope our continued support will strengthen Keck’s capacity to meet the demands of the NAS.”