Shaping the Future: Eisenhower Transforming Cancer Care
If you or a loved one have been dealing with a complex cancer diagnosis, frequent long-distance drives for specialty care can be exhausting. Imagine having the option to receive most, if not all, of your clinical care close to home. Eisenhower is poised to turn that dream into a reality, expanding oncology services for all aspects of cancer care.
Vision 2025 for advancing top-quality care
The new Mark and Paula Hurd Cancer Pavilion and Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center expansion falls under the umbrella of Eisenhower’s Vision 2025, an ambitious five-year strategic plan for delivering cancer care across the health system, launched in January 2021.With the number of cancer cases in the Coachella Valley expected to rise by 25.1 percent in the next 10 years, Eisenhower is determined to stay ahead of the curve and provide leading comprehensive care synonymous with major hospitals in metropolitan areas.
“Our oncology services experienced incredible growth over the past several years, including clinic visits, mammography exams, and radiation and chemotherapy services,” says Martin Massiello, President and Chief Executive Officer, Eisenhower Health. “Our affiliation with UC San Diego Health Cancer Network has also played an important role in the expansion of our cancer program. With oncology services now in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta and Yucca Valley, our patients are now able to access the highest level of cancer care in the Coachella Valley that traditionally had not been available to them in the past.”
“A key focus of the Vision 2025 plan for oncology is to build a high quality, nationally recognized cancer program that provides the community with local access to world class talent, technology and therapies to treat all types of cancer,” says Katie Schnaser, Chief Administrative Officer, Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center.
Steven Plaxe, MD, Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Gynecologic Oncology, and Medical Director of Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center, steers the strategic plan for oncology with Schnaser.
“We are committed to bringing the same high level of care that patients receive at top academic cancer centers, says Plaxe. “Right now, I estimate we can provide around 80 percent of these services onsite and for the other 20 percent, coordinate efficient and streamlined referrals and consultations for patients who need them.”
Mark and Paula Hurd Cancer Pavilion
In January 2023, Eisenhower realized a major milestone with the groundbreaking of the new Mark and Paula Hurd Cancer Pavilion, a second-floor addition to the Cancer Center. Along with renovations to other areas of the building, the expansion project, when complete, will provide an additional 12,000 square feet, bringing all oncology specialists under one roof with room for growth. The $12.5 million project, which is still raising funds, is slated to take 12 to 18 months and has been partially funded by philanthropy, including a generous lead gift from Paula R. Hurd and family.
Paula Hurd, who lost her husband Mark to cancer in 2019 and her father to the disease in 2022, emphasizes the exceptional care her father received at Eisenhower. The Paula R. Hurd and family funding is pivotal to providing Eisenhower with the resources it needs to continue its vital work.
“I wanted to expand Eisenhower’s cancer care competencies by giving the Cancer Center more space and more personnel,” says Hurd. “My hope is the expansion will help save more lives, and lead to advancements in research that could one day lead to a cure.”
Enlargement extends capacity for range of services
In addition to the existing Eisenhower Schnitzer/Novack Breast Center, the comprehensive facility will have dedicated units for Hematology/Oncology, Gynecologic Oncology, Breast Surgical Oncology, and Specialty Oncology. The latter will provide local consultation space for patients and families meeting with physicians providing cancer services in the UC San Diego Health Cancer Network, an affiliation forged in 2018.
“We have visiting physicians and surgeons specializing in blood and marrow transplants, personalized medicine, targeted therapy and immunotherapy, and we’re in the process of developing a new Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Cancer Surgery Clinic, focusing on complex upper GI surgical cases,” explains Plaxe. “We are always seeking ways to enhance the current programs and establish new ones. Going forward, the expansion will open up opportunities for more UC San Diego oncologists to offer consultation and clinical services at Eisenhower.”
The Cancer Center has added a dedicated breast medical oncologist and a fellowship-trained breast cancer surgeon. Along with cancer geneticists, four breast imaging specialists and a team of radiation oncologists, they will be part of a multi-disciplinary, comprehensive breast cancer program at the Cancer Center.
With a strong emphasis on screening and early detection, the Cancer Center will house a monitoring/interventional clinic for individuals deemed at high risk for breast cancer. Eisenhower has also opened a breast imaging center in Palm Springs and has screening programs in place for colon, esophageal, pancreatic and lung cancer.
Yet another key component of the program is that patients receive top quality, seamless care throughout the entire health system. Two expert nurse navigators are integral to this mission, providing patients and their families with vital resources, facilitating care, and expediting referrals to the cancer center.
Embracing new technologies
Eisenhower continues to adopt cutting-edge technologies to enhance quality of care and patient outcomes. Radiation oncology recently implemented triggered imaging for prostate cancer treatment. This state-of-the-art innovation to the TrueBeam™ radiotherapy system allows clinicians to treat tumors with pinpoint accuracy, resulting in an abbreviated course of treatment for patients — from nine weeks to one-and-a-half.
This fall, Eisenhower launched a remote patient monitoring system for patients being treated with oral chemotherapy. Using artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the platform can triage patient concerns from the comfort of their own home, relieving anxiety about symptoms and allowing real-time communication with clinicians. The program will be expanded to patients receiving chemotherapy intravenously. In all, roughly 800 patients will have the opportunity to benefit from this new technology annually.
Empowering quality of life
In 2021, the Cancer Center received QOPI® certification from the American Society of Clinical Oncology for high quality cancer care and is actively pursuing national quality accreditations for its radiation oncology department, as well as lung, breast and rectal cancer programs.
“We are truly guided by the vision that the fewest patients possible must travel out of the area for advanced care, confident that they’ve received the highest quality of care possible here at Eisenhower,” says Schnaser.
“Along with our strategic blueprint to provide comprehensive cancer services closer to home for all valley residents, our goal in all areas of care is to respond to the growing and varied health needs of our community,” says Massiello.
For more information or to contact Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center, call 760.674.3602 or visit EisenhowerHealth.org/Oncology.