Blacks Have Less Access to Cancer Specialists, Treatment

UC San Diego Study Suggests Racial Inequality Leads to Higher Mortality

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say metastatic colorectal cancer patients of African-American descent are less likely to be seen by cancer specialists or receive cancer treatments. This difference in treatment explains a large part of the 15 percent higher mortality experienced by African-American patients than non-Hispanic white patients. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego News Center


Department of Medicine co-investigators on the project are Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS, associate professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology; Gregory Heestand, MD, Health Sciences assistant clinical professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and Paul Fanta, MD, MS, Health Sciences associate clinical professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology.

Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS  Gregory Heestand, MD  Paul Fanta, MD, MS
Above, from left: Drs. Samir Gupta, Gregory Heestand, and Paul Fanta

Citation for the study report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute:

Daniel R. Simpson, María Elena Martínez, Samir Gupta, Jona Hattangadi-Gluth, Loren K. Mell, Gregory Heestand, Paul Fanta, Sonia Ramamoorthy, Quynh-Thu Le, and James D. Murphy. Racial Disparity in Consultation, Treatment, and the Impact on Survival in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst first published online November 14, 2013 doi:10.1093/jnci/djt318  |  Full text (UCSD only)

UC San Diego Cardiology Team Performs 100th Extraction Procedure with 100 Percent Success Rate

A multidisciplinary team from the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center at University of California, San Diego Health System has performed its 100th lead (pronounced “leed”) extraction surgery, a delicate procedure to replace the thin wiring of lifesaving heart devices such as pacemakers or implantable defibrillators (ICDs). The collaborative program, pioneered at UC San Diego Health System, has a 100 percent success rate. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Radical Surgery Saves Life of Young Mom, California First

Liver Removed, Reconstructed, Re-Implanted

A team led by Dr. Alan Hemming, a transplant surgeon at UC San Diego Health System, has successfully performed the West Coast’s first ex-vivo liver resection, a radical procedure to completely remove and reconstruct a diseased liver and re-implant it without any tumors. The procedure saved the life of a 27-year old mother whose liver had been invaded by a painful tumor that crushed the organ and entangled its blood supply…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


The surgery was performed at UC San Diego Health System’s Center for Hepatobiliary Disease and Abdominal Transplantation (CHAT), a new clinical service co-directed by Drs. Robert G. Gish and Alan Hemming. Dr. Gish is Director of Hepatology and Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology. Dr. Hemming is Professor of Surgery and Chief of Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery.

UC San Diego Center for Transplantation “VAD Destination Therapy” Approved

Heart failure patients with few options find future in mechanical devices

The Joint Commission has approved UC San Diego Health System’s Disease-Specific Care Certification for Ventricular Assist Device (VAD). Hospitals performing VAD as a “destination therapy” (for permanent use) receive a certification of distinction and receive reimbursement from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services… Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Co-directing the VAD program is Eric Adler, MD, Health Sciences Associate Clinical Professor in the Division of Cardiology. Dr. Adler co-directs the Ventricular Assist Devices program with Jack Copeland, MD, at the UCSD Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center (pictured above).

A Rich, Collaborative Environment Advances Patient Care

UC San Diego Health Sciences has entered a period of remarkable growth, one that will strengthen its position as a destination academic medical center. In addition to the recent addition of the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center and Medical Education & Telemedicine Building, plans are underway for the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute building… Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

First-ever Procedure in Region’s Only Hybrid Operating Room

UC San Diego Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center experts have performed San Diego’s first-ever coronary revascularization procedure using a hybrid operating room, the only facility of its kind in the region. The state-of-the-art operating room allows patients to be treated in one place at one time without having to schedule multiple procedures. The result is less time in the operating room and reduced costs for hospitalization…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Ehtisham Mahmud   Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center

The procedure was performed at UC San Diego Health System’s Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, which opened earlier this year. Center co-director Ehtisham “Shami” Mahmud, MD, FACC, pictured above left, performed the stenting procedure described in the story. Mahmud is professor and chief of clinical cardiovascular medicine in the Department of Medicine.

Region’s First Dedicated Cardiovascular Center at UC San Diego Ready for Patients

Sulpizio Cardiovascular CenterOn Sunday, April 3, 2011, the gleaming glass doors of the UC San Diego Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center (SCVC) will welcome patients from across the county and around the world. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


   Dr. Ehtisham Mahmud

Kirk Peterson, MD, FACP, FACC, pictured at left above, is director of the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center (SCVC). Dr. Peterson is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology.

Etisham Mahmud, MD, FACC, Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Cardiology, Director of Interventional Cardiology, and Director of the Cardiovascular Catheterization Laboratory, is a co-director of the SCVC. He is pictured at right above.

Michael Madani, MD, FACS, Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery, is also a co-director of the SCVC.

Easy to Swallow: First Scarless Myotomy Performed in United States

Dr. Thomas Savides was part of the team that performed a landmark surgical procedure for achalasia, an esophageal disorder, at UCSD Medical Center recently.

The UCSD News story, “Easy to Swallow: First Scarless Myotomy Performed in United States,” appeared in media including Medical News Today and Thaindian News.

Thomas J. Savides, M.D., is Professor of Medicine and Interim Chief in the Division of Gastroenterology.

Leading the surgical team was Dr. Santiago Horgan, Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Director of the UC San Diego Center for the Future of Surgery.

Dr. Barbara Parker Embracing the Challenge

“Healing and hope,” says Dr. Barbara Parker, “are always possible.”

With optimism and a deep sense of gratitude, she has begun her tenure as Medical Director of Oncology Services at Moores Cancer Center and UCSD Medical Center.

Moores UCSD Cancer Center and Dr. Barbara A. Parker
The Moores UCSD Cancer Center and Dr. Barbara A. Parker, new Medical Director of Oncology Services.

A longtime UCSD physician, researcher, and administrator, Dr. Parker was pleased to be asked to step into this challenging and influential role. She sees it as an opportunity to work at a new level to provide the best possible medical – and emotional – care for her patients.


“It’s an incredible opportunity and privilege.”


“I feel very blessed,” she says. “The Cancer Center and all of UCSD have a very dedicated staff of nurses, faculty physicians, and researchers.

“It’s an incredible opportunity and privilege to work with all of them to advance new therapies that will improve the medical and the psychological care of our patients.”

From the beginning of her career, her desire has been to provide emotional as well as medical care for her patients.

“For me, taking care of the emotional as well as the medical needs of patients is very profound,” she says, “and the privilege of addressing emotional and medical needs led me to choose a career in internal medicine and medical oncology.”

She received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation last year. It is an honor granted to doctors who demonstrate extraordinary compassion.

In her new position, she oversees cancer care services for thousands of patients. The Moores UCSD Cancer Center had over 70,000 outpatient visits to its multidisciplinary clinic, infusion center, procedure suite, and radiation oncology facility last year.
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Her chief challenge, she says, is to improve the transition between inpatient and outpatient care. The goal is to provide a continuum of medical and emotional support for each patient.

This means coordinating among everyone involved, including the patients themselves.

To illustrate the breadth of this challenge, she points out how many facilities and departments are involved in a single patient’s care.


The goal is to provide
a continuum of care.


The patient visits the hospital, the outpatient clinics, the infusion center, and the radiation treatment facilities. He or she receives care from specialists in medical oncology, surgery, radiation oncology, and psychosocial services.

All of the specialists must work in concert to make sure that every issue in a patient’s care is tracked and resolved.

In addition, hospital and clinic resources must be managed so that patient care is optimized; staff and facilities are maintained and assigned efficiently. Patients must have urgent care clinic space or inpatient hospital beds available when they are needed.

“The key is communication,” she said.

A vital part of this effort, she says, is making sure that the patients have the information they need so that they know what to expect and whom to call when they need care.


“Our goal is to educate
our patients so that they feel
empowered to make choices.”


“Our patients want to learn about their disease and participate in their care,” she says. “Our goal is to educate them so that they feel empowered to make choices.”

Without the proper education and support from healthcare professionals, she says, medical information can create uncertainty and fear.

Patients receive information from doctors, from other patients, and – increasingly – from the Internet.

“Part of our job is to help them evaluate what is relevant and what is not,” she says.

“We encourage our patients to bring in the materials they are reading, and we try to teach them how to evaluate the information.

The Moores UCSD Cancer Center provides a list of reliable sources of information about cancer:

See “Coping with Cancer – Resources and Education.”

“It’s important to validate their enthusiasm, their concern, their curiosity, and their desire to partner in their care.”

One of her particular interests is in facilitating patients’ access to safe and effective new treatments. She is working toward that goal administratively as well as in her own research.

She pursues several areas of cancer research in collaboration with other researchers at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.


Facilitating access
to new therapies
is one of her priorities.


Through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), she is involved in a study that looks at the changes observed in breast cancer patients who have been exposed to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) before breast cancer surgery. These agents may have a role in cancer prevention.

She is also teaming with Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel and associates to study issues of “chemobrain” and sleep disorders in breast cancer patients. Addressing quality of life issues in all cancer patients is important to overall care.

With Principal Investigator Dr. John P. Pierce, Director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Moores Cancer Center, she is Medical Director of the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study.

That study, with 7-1/2 years of follow-up in more than 3000 women who are survivors of breast cancer, was published last July in JAMA.

The study found that intense dietary modification with fruits and vegetables above the standard five-a-day recommendation did not impact survival.

However, several additional sub-studies are currently examining issues of the relationship of hot flashes to survival, the effect of hormone replacement therapy on the type of breast cancer, and the frequency with which family history changes over time.

Dr. Parker is also UCSD Principal Investigator of Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB), a large clinical trials cooperative group funded by the National Cancer Institute to test new therapies.

She has just been asked to serve on the CALGB Prevention Committee.

In recent years, she has taken on a greater role in administration involving cancer patient care.

After serving on the Board of Governors of the UCSD Medical Group for several years, she recently was elected to serve on their Executive Committee.

As part of this service, she has had the opportunity to bring her expertise and interest in the clinical arena to focus on operational issues for the Medical Group.

When the Medical Director of Oncology Services position became available, she saw the opportunity to apply her skills as a clinician with her interest in operational issues to solve important problems in the delivery of patient care.

Dr. Parker says she had an early passion for mathematics and science. She began her education at a time when “doors were just opening for women in the sciences.”

She majored in applied mathematics in college and then, with the urging of her family, changed to pre-med.


“I’m a clinician at heart.”


“I’ve never looked back,” she said. “I wanted to be a real doctor and take care of the whole patient.”

She received her M.D. degree from Stanford and trained in internal medicine (residency) and hematology/oncology (fellowship) at UCSD.

Then, she spent 7 years on the UCSD faculty before serving as a medical director in drug development with San Diego’s Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

In 1999, she returned to UCSD. “I’m a clinician at heart,” she said.

Since 1999, she has been a Professor of Clinical Medicine in Hematology-Oncology and researcher in the Moores Cancer Center’s Tumor Growth, Invasion & Metastasis Program.

She has been named as one of San Diego’s “Top Doctors by the San Diego County Medical Society.

During medical school, she says, she was inspired by medical oncologists who became role models for her.

Once she came to UCSD, she found more role models and mentors here, Dr. Mark Green and Dr. John Mendelsohn, former Moores UCSD Cancer Center directors.

It was during medical school at Stanford that she met her husband, who is a basic science cancer researcher.

“We call it the marriage of science and medicine,” she smiles.

Her husband is Geoff Wahl, Ph.D., a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and a past president of the American Association for Cancer Research.

He is actively involved in advocacy for scientific research funding and has been invited to serve on the board of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN).

In his basic research in the causes of cancer, Dr. Wahl focuses on genomic instability, therapeutic strategies based upon the p53 tumor suppressor pathway, and the role of stems cells in breast cancer.

Dr. Parker and Dr. Wahl have two children, a daughter who is a freshman at Tufts University and a son who is a senior at Stanford.

“Our children are our two most successful experiments,” she says warmly.

More Information:

Moores UCSD Cancer Center

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