MSK’s Chief Health Equity Officer, Carol Brown, MD, participated in a Fireside Chat on Health Equity for the Becker’s Healthcare Virtual Oncology Forum on July 26, 2021. During the discussion, Dr. Brown spoke in-depth about addressing cancer health disparities that exist due to racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers. She also shared examples of systemic changes necessary to close the disparities gap, how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities and elaborated on how MSK is helping to advance health equity in the New York area through partnerships with community groups and public health agencies.
At MSK, Dr. Brown is responsible for center-wide initiatives focused on the reduction and elimination of cancer disparities experienced by medically underserved populations. Making healthcare more accessible for people of color and others who suffer from disparities has been her life’s work.
“When we talk about cancer health equity, we want every patient who has cancer to have the best possible outcome, and that means being cured of their cancer and helping these patients get back to their normal lives,” said Dr. Brown. “I think cancer centers like MSK, where we really are at the forefront of doing the research and developing the incredible advances in cancer care, have a responsibility to make sure that those advances actually make it to the 70 percent of people in the United States who receive their cancer care not at MSK, but rather in their local community.”
Dr. Brown also weighed in on some of the biggest factors driving cancer health disparities, including the importance of increasing diversity in cancer clinical trials, and the initiatives MSK has in place to help expand access to those trials as well as efforts underway to help improve equity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“We recognize that health equity and diversity need to be embedded in every aspect of a healthcare system. At MSK, we are partnering with different hospital operation arms to design and implement initiatives for these communities that can help address some of these challenges,” said Dr. Brown. “We also know how important it is to have a connection with our communities; gaining their trust, showing them that our healthcare systems have good intentions and commitment to their care is paramount to us.”