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A Model for Breast Cancer Care and Wellness

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New Clinical Director for Under Armour Breast Health Innovation Center is working to make care more efficient for patients

Early in Mary Wilkinson’s training, she was drawn to medical oncology because of the special relationships doctors in this specialty have with patients. Instead of patients passing quickly through her care, she formed long-term relationships with many, by their side from diagnosis through treatment and survivorship. Eventually, because so many female patients sought her, she ended up caring exclusively for those with breast cancer.

Now, as the new clinical director for Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Under Armour Breast Health Innovation Center, Wilkinson says, she plans to continue developing these relationships and transforming breast cancer care as part of the center’s large, multidisciplinary team.

The center, which opened in the summer of 2018, offers a new innovative model of breast cancer care in which illness and wellness exist in the same space. Located on the 10th floor of the Skip Viragh Outpatient Cancer Building, the center offers space to guide patients along every part of the continuum of this journey, from an education room that houses materials, videos, and seminars for patients who are newly diagnosed; to clinic rooms where patients can meet with their physicians to discuss ongoing care and treatment plans; to a physical medicine and rehabilitation room in which patients can engage in therapies to help them deal with the rigors of treatment and survivorship.

As many as 40 experts from various disciplines, including radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, and medical oncologists, including Wilkinson, collaborate to develop and implement care for each patient—a process that Wilkinson hopes to streamline in her new role.

“We offer an incredible body of expertise within the center,” she says. “Right now, we’re working on improving workflow so that we can more efficiently care for patients and get them the care they need from multiple experts the same day or the same week.”

One way to help experts from different disciplines work together more efficiently is to harness the power of EPIC, the electronic medical record system used through Johns Hopkins, she says. Wilkinson and her team are working within the system so that a patient’s entire team can coordinate care more seamlessly. Wilkinson, who has also long collaborated with other experts throughout Johns Hopkins on research studies, also plans to use EPIC to help patients join clinical trials more easily. Eventually, she says, she and other providers could work with patients to support precision, individualized medical care by identifying features that may make individual patients well suited to specific clinical studies.

Another part of streamlining care, Wilkinson says, is making sure that patients receive treatments and follow-ups in the location that’s easiest for them to access. Kimmel Cancer Center breast cancer experts are located at all of its locations—in East Baltimore, Bayview, Sibley, Suburban and Green Spring Station—giving patients an option to schedule appointments closer to their homes or workplaces, boosting the convenience of care.

“Each of our providers delivers top-notch care,” Wilkinson says. “Our goal is to make sure that patients access every opportunity available to them to receive the quickest and most coordinated care possible.”