Moffitt Merit Society Fights Women's Cancers

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Moffitt Merit Society® Is Passionate About Defeating Women’s Cancers

One in three women will experience cancer in her lifetime.  To help overturn these statistics, a group of women who are passionate about defeating women’s cancers developed Moffitt Merit Society® in 2011. The members partner with Moffitt physicians, researchers and staff to ensure that our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends will have access to the most advanced research-based treatments. The Moffitt Merit Society® connects women committed to taking action against cancer. This women-in-leadership and philanthropy group of Moffitt Cancer Center supports and advocates for prevention, treatment, research and education related to cancers affecting women.

At the 2013 membership luncheon, the Moffitt Merit Society® awarded funds to three female Moffitt researchers toward their respective research projects:

Susan Thomas Vadaparampil, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Developing a Psychoeducational Intervention to Increase Uptake of Genetic Counseling

Ragini Kudchadkar, M.D.
A New Definition for Melanoma

Mary C. Pinder-Schenck, M.D.
Lung Cancer Research: A Pathway to Hope

“This award will facilitate my research in the area of clinical pathways for lung cancer,” says Dr. Pinder-Schenck, a medical oncologist with Moffitt’s Thoracic Oncology Program. “In the clinic, I focus on the care of all patients with thoracic malignancies, and I have a particular interest in the care of women with lung cancer.” Also a member of Moffitt’s Clinical Pathways team, Dr. Pinder-Schenck notes that clinical pathways provide a patient management tool not only for physicians but also for the entire health care team. The tool helps standardize and outline a patient’s clinical course of care based on best practices specific to each patient’s situation and personalized treatment needs.

“The Merit Society award is very special,” says Dr. Pinder-Schenck. “These awards acknowledge not only the work of female physicians and scientists at Moffitt, but also the important roles women play in building strong families and strong communities.”

Dr. Kudchadkar, a medical oncologist in Moffitt’s Cutaneous Oncology Program, says her award will allow her to focus on pediatric melanoma, historically a rare disease.

“More recent data indicate that the incidence of pediatric melanoma is increasing rapidly,” says Dr. Kudchadkar. She adds that pediatric melanoma is challenging to diagnose, causing it to often be missed by both pathologist and pediatricians. “Funding from the Moffitt Merit Society will help research in improving molecular diagnostic testing for pediatric melanoma,” says Dr. Kudchadkar. Her research interests include novel targeted therapies in patients with melanoma and other cutaneous malignancies, including basal cell cancer.

Dr. Vadaparampil, a researcher in Moffitt’s Health Outcomes and Behavior Program, says available studies show that Hispanic breast cancer patients participate in genetic counseling and testing at much lower rates than at-risk non-Hispanic white women. “Our team has documented that reasons for the lower uptake of genetic counseling and testing among Hispanic breast cancer patients likely include less awareness of and access to genetics services; insurance, language and cultural barriers; and concerns about emotional responses to testing.”

Her team received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and pilot test an educational intervention (booklet and DVD) to increase uptake of genetic counseling among breast cancer patients. However, the NIH grant only included funds to create the intervention for English-speaking/English-preferring patients.

“With the Merit Society award, we propose to both linguistically and culturally adapt the currently developed educational intervention for Spanish-speaking/Spanish-preferring high-risk breast cancer patients,” says Dr. Vadaparampil. “If shown to be effective, this intervention is a low-cost, easily portable, highly disseminable approach to increasing the use of genetic counseling to inform survivorship care in a diverse sample of breast cancer patients.”

The Merit Society funds make it possible to take research ideas and develop them into actual studies, adds Dr. Vadaparampil.  “Few funding opportunities allow researchers to do this at such a rapid pace. Equally important is the encouragement and support we receive from the Merit Society members.”

The Moffitt Merit Society® carries on the legacy of Merit Ptah, the first known woman in medicine nearly 5,000 years ago. The skills, achievements and compassionate care of female physicians and scientists at Moffitt reflect a deep commitment to providing hope and improving quality of life for those touched by cancer.

The Merit Society is growing, and the ongoing commitment from the Tampa community is essential for the program’s continued success. Find out more about the Moffitt Merit Society® as well as previous award recipients and their related research – or register to join today.
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