A Homecoming

"My research interests focus on how to best implement emerging new approaches whether they are surgical, diagnostic or therapeutic..."--Mark Genesen, MD
WHEN GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGIST MARK GENESEN, MD, joined the staff of Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center this past November, it was a homecoming. From 1999 to 2008, he developed the first and only comprehensive gynecologic oncology program in the Coachella Valley that brought cutting edge gynecologic oncology services to the community with collaboration and support from Scripps, Hoag Hospital, USC/Norris Cancer Center, Harbor UCLA and Cedars Sinai Medical Center. This afforded patients clinical care and access to clinical trials without having to travel out of the valley.

Dr. Genesen served as two-term Division Chief of Gynecology at Eisenhower Medical Center and he was also Chair and Medical Director of the Regional American Cancer Society Leadership Council. He also served as Vice Chair of the Governing Board of Desert Regional Medical Center and Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Moving East in 2008, his former colleagues and partners began planning to entice him back to Southern California. The opportunity to work with an institution and program that is uniquely committed to the needs and future health care of the Coachella Valley inspired him to circle back to Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center.

“After Dr. Genesen left the valley, our data shows that women began leaving the Coachella Valley for gynecologic oncology surgery due to limited access to local providers who specialize in this field,” explains Katie Schnaser, FACHE, Chief Administrative Officer, Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center.

Having that access can be crucial for a successful outcome. In fact, research shows that survival rates for women with ovarian cancer significantly improve when they’re treated by a gynecologic oncologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancers of the female reproductive system — and who serves as captain of a woman’s gynecologic cancer care team.

“Now, with Dr. Genesen here, women don’t have to leave the desert to obtain comprehensive, high-quality gynecologic oncology care,” she continues. “Whether they need surgery, follow-up chemotherapy or other treatments, they can get it all locally and continue to live their lives without the disruption of travel.

“With almost 20 years of connectedness, there are a lot of patients who are excited to have Dr. Genesen back in the community,” she adds, “and a lot of local providers who are glad to have him to refer to and collaborate with locally.”

“Having Dr. Genesen here certainly adds another dimension to the high-quality cancer care that’s already available at the Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center,” agrees Steven Plaxe, MD, Medical Director. Like Dr. Genesen, he is Board Certified in Gynecologic Oncology.

Dr. Genesen not only is respected for his patient-care expertise, but also has earned national recognition for his work in clinical research as well as health policy, particularly as it relates to patient safety.

Over the last several years, he has worked collaboratively with leadership from the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American College of Surgeons on improving safe implementation of new treatments, procedures and technologies. These projects included developing best-practice documents pertinent to gynecologic surgery.

“There’s so much that’s changing quickly in our specialty, so it’s important to understand, ‘When is new better?’” Dr. Genesen explains. “These are important tenets as we guide patients through sometimes uncertain waters.”

This question is often asked when patients consider enrolling in a clinical trial to test the efficacy of a new treatment versus the current standard of care. Through Eisenhower Health’s affiliation with UC San Diego Health Cancer Network, desert residents will have local access to more clinical trials than ever, including those run by the National Cancer Institute.

“My research interests focus on how to best implement emerging new approaches, whether they are surgical, diagnostic or therapeutic. The UCSD affiliation will enhance options pertaining to clinical trials for improving care for ovarian, cervical and endometrial cancers,” he notes.

It also provides essential resources for genetics counseling.

“We try to identify women with a genetic predisposition to ovarian and uterine cancers that allow for prevention, earlier detection and more specific treatment strategies for the patient and family members,” continues Dr. Genesen.

“For those patients whose fate eludes screening and prevention strategies, we want to be as thoughtfully aggressive as we can be while still being helpful,” he continues, referring to how he treats gynecologic cancers. “And we want to tailor our efforts based on the characteristics of each patient’s tumor, their personal needs, stage of life and goals.

In the surgical realm, Dr. Genesen credits several of his former mentors and senior partners who helped pioneer many of today’s approaches to endometrial and ovarian cancer. For patients with endometrial cancer, he explains, “We’re now able to achieve similar outcomes with minimally invasive surgical approaches. However, when aggressive surgery is indicated we are able to offer patients radical surgical approaches that have been refined over the last generation.

“With new targeted therapies available today, our menu of treatments has grown larger,” he adds, “and we’re able to develop treatment plans that are personalized to the individual patient and their tumor.”

“We really do have unrivalled resources here at the Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center, from initial evaluation and diagnosis, to the most aggressive yet prudent treatment,” Dr. Genesen says. “And we’re going to continue to build on that.

“While we cannot cure everyone, we never lose the ability to heal patients and their families,” he adds. “And with our commitment to care for each person’s body, mind and spirit, this is truly a healing place like no other.”

For more information about the services at Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center, call 760.674.3602.