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What brings together 100 graduate students, head of the Science and Technology Section for the European Union, science attachés from embassies including the United States', speakers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and senior industry leaders from Nestlé and MSD Pharmaceuticals to discuss research, cultural exchange and nascent business plans in biomedical science? The annual symposium of the University of Tokyo's Global Center of Excellence (COE) Center for Medical Systems Innovation (CMSI), that's what.

Global COEs are five-year programs awarded to top Japanese universities by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Similar to U.S. Program Project Grants (PO1s) and Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs), the COEs bring together cross-disciplinary research teams to tackle important problems in public health.

Kendra Woods, Ph.D., is not your typical researcher. She refers to herself as a researcher/educator, unable to separate the two labels and perceiving one as vital to the other. Her personal goal throughout her career has been to contribute to the education of those who work to understand and better treat cancer.

It should come as no surprise to discover Woods has championed the development of the recently launched MD Anderson Professional Oncology Education classes, available to anyone with a computer and an Internet browser.

MD Anderson and Woods recognized by providing enduring foundational training to international partners, future fellows and trainees, and anyone else interested in better understanding cancer care prior to physically visiting MD Anderson, each subsequent interaction would be more productive. Not to mention, MD Anderson faculty could provide the same information to a multitude of audiences without ever having to make travel arrangements.

Watching the high-quality films will be important preparation for observers and visitors to MD Anderson, who will arrive with a core of information, thereby enhancing every minute spent on the Houston campus.

The first step in developing the courses was to figure out what defined foundational. 

What did health care professionals need and want to know that would underlie both clinical and research focused professionals? To answer this question, Woods and others at MD Anderson surveyed hundreds of researchers regarding possible topics. 


The MD Anderson group concluded the areas with the broadest appeal that would provide the greatest foundational information were:

  • Introduction to Clinical Oncology
  • Survivorship
  • Breast Cancer
  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer
  • Cancer Pathology
  • Cancer Biology

The Survivorship I course, Breast Cancer course and Inflammatory Breast Cancer course are all available online. Upcoming courses include Survivorship II and Introduction to Clinical Oncology, with the remaining categories to follow over the next year.

Another ideal group of lectures, according to Woods, would be the "Core Curriculum" Lecture Series given to incoming fellows in many departments. Woods' hope for the educational future of MD Anderson is that these courses will become part of a broader, integrated effort to disseminate cancer care information to a larger portion of oncology professionals across the globe.

She envisions the training leading to second tier education in the form of:

  • streaming media
  • webinars
  • off-site conferences
  • Internet case studies
  • onsite conferences
  • textbooks
  • collaborative user groups

"I really see this as educating the next generation of educators and researchers," Woods says. "Sharing this information does not decrease our influence, but increases our ability to further MD Anderson's mission of eradicating cancer. This will accelerate everyone's rate of discovery."


Lois Ramondetta's connections to the Middle East are personal and professional. With a husband from the region, she travels frequently to the area and has grown to know and love the people and culture. 


As a result of her personal attachment, she has started to focus on developing collaborative research and knowledge-sharing relationships with her oncologist peers in the Middle East.

Dr Ramondetta and Nuhad.JPGThis fondness for the area and history of interaction made Ramondetta a natural fit for the scientific committee coordinating the Women's Cancer Conference held in late January in Beirut, Lebanon.

Although physician-scientists from several countries attended, including The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria, the event was jointly organized by The Naef K. Basile Cancer Institute at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUB), King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) in Amman, Jordan and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

For Ramondetta, the engagement was preceded by months of video conference calls and e-mail, but was well worth the effort.

"We had a wonderful time and everyone got so much out of the event," she says. "Our hosts were amazing, the discussions were lively and the conference should lead to even more collaboration."

As an associate professor and gynecologic oncologist at MD Anderson, Ramondetta, M.D., has been actively involved in research regarding endometrial and cervical cancer, quality of life issues for cancer patients, and the effect of socio-cultural-economic factors on patients and their care. She brought those interests, as well as a desire to better understand how treatment differs in various regions, to the recent meeting.

"One of the most interesting discussions in the conference was the final session," Ramondetta says. "Members from AUB and KHCC debated the pros and cons of the use of the HPV vaccine in the region."

To Ramondetta, the discussion illustrated that although the Middle East is predominantly a traditional and conservative region, physicians recognize the probability of change.

Physicians in the session debated the recognition of traditional values with the need for medicine to be proactive, as it addresses the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and the development of an HPV vaccine plan. Although the issue was in no way permanently decided, to Ramondetta, the fact that difficult items such as these were discussed was encouraging and beneficial. 

Also of interest to Ramondetta, and a regional difference that made planning the conference challenging, was the disparate way physicians in the Middle East and elsewhere treat gynecologic cancers. While gynecologic cancers are normally addressed by gynecologic oncologists throughout much of the Western world, in the Middle East, they are often initially treated by a general surgeon or benign gynecologist, followed by a medical oncologist. Ramondetta sees this as an area to encourage collaborative research and training.

"We know women who receive care from a gynecologic oncologist do better during and after treatment," she says. "It would be great to work together to train specialists in this area."

Ramondetta's future collaborative efforts include working with Geri LoBiondo-Wood, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Nursing at MD Anderson, and colleagues at KHCC to develop a cooperative research project studying quality of life for cancer patients and the effect of different cultures. 

LoBiondo-Wood, Ramondetta and members of nursing administration from KHCC hope to apply to MD Anderson's Global Academic Program's Sister Institution Network Fund for support and to continue to bolster their research efforts.

"The fact that both AUB and KHCC are sister institutions only increases our ability to work together," Ramondetta explains. "These relationships are going to lead to a lot of opportunities in the future."

In the photo
: Lois Ramondetta, M.D., and Ibrahim Nuhad, M.D., organizers of the Women's Cancer Conference.





oncologydream.jpg

My Oncology Dream is a new nationwide competition in Japan, among oncology professionals, for the opportunity to spend a year at MD Anderson. 

Candidates are selected based on their academic achievements, clinical track record and, above all, on their dream of improving cancer care in their hospital -- where they will likely return after the year is over. 

It is also a social movement. Visitors can see people posting their dreams directly to the Japanese: My Oncology Dream website.

The program was created by the Japan Cancer Society and the Oncology Education Project Association, both of which were represented at the Jan. 11 ceremony where Hiroko Masuda, M.D., was presented with the first My Oncology Dream award. 

Masuda is a graduate of Kochi University Medical School and completed her training at Okayama University Hospital, where she now practices as a surgical oncologist and performs research on triple-negative breast cancer. Her dream is to provide the best care for her patients through teamwork that will help bring cutting-edge clinical trials to her institution, when she returns after her year at MD Anderson.

MyOncologyDream.300.jpg

The president of the Japanese Cancer Society, Tadao Kakizoe, M.D., congratulated Masuda on her achievements and selection, and JCS Chairman Shin-ichi Hakoshima, M.D., spoke about their vision of innovative programs to support networking and new approaches to cancer in Japan. 

The Oncology Education Project Association was represented by Naoto Ueno, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at MD Anderson and an innovator of several training programs in oncology in Japan. Ueno emphasized his dream of bringing multidisciplinary care and new trials to Japan, and saw the kind of connections that My Oncology Dream will build as essential to reaching this goal.

The event was also attended by Agnes Chan, Ph.D., who is an educator, a champion of the fight against cancer, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, as well as a novelist, pop singer and television personality. 

Chan gave closing remarks, praising the JCS and Oncology Education Project Association for their vision and encouraging everyone to continue the battle against cancer. She also encouraged Masuda to make use of her year in the United States to get to know its people and see some of its sights, so that when she returns to Japan she can be a good connection between the countries and their oncology communities.

Masuda will start her visit at MD Anderson in April and will be working with faculty in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center.

In the photo (from left): Naoto Ueno, M.D., Ph.D.; Agnes Chan, Ph.D.; Hiroko Masuda, M.D.; and Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., at the Tokyo American Center where the My Oncology Dream award was given to Masuda.

I recently attended an Academy of Cancer Experts (ACE) workshop on "Aligning Leadership for Tomorrow's Team Oncology" in Tokyo, and was impressed by the impact this program is having on a new generation of leaders in the cancer field.

ACE is a leadership training program that emphasizes team building, mentoring and career development, and has been active in Japan for the past four years. It's a partner program to the Japan Team Oncology Program, recently profiled in MD Anderson's Conquest magazine. Co-founded by Naoto Ueno M.D., Ph.D.,professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology (@teamoncology on Twitter), it has brought together upcoming stars among Japan's oncology professionals with a view to encouraging creative, group-focused approaches to the cancer problem. "The idea is to create the next generation of oncology leaders," Ueno says.

Several cohorts have gone through the program, developed and led by Janis Apted, associate vice president for faculty development at MD Anderson, and Larry Neiman, senior consultant at Executive Development Group L.L.C. At this workshop, participants from different years came together for further team building and to brainstorm on the programs future.

It was clear to me that a core leadership group had been crafted by this effort, with many members from our sister institutions -- Keio University and St. Luke's International Hospital of Tokyo, as well as the Japanese National Cancer Center. The group is poised to take an active role in its future, as it works on bringing its key insights to other institutions in Japan and perhaps beyond.


Neiman, who also coaches in MD Anderson's Faculty Leadership Academy, commented that he encountered the same issues in both venues. "Some of the problems are exactly the same," he says. The team building skills that are the focus of ACE "aren't skills that are being taught in medical school or graduate school," according to Apted, who underscored the unique value that this program adds.

Another ACE  co-founder, Hideyuki Saya, M.D., Ph.D., professor of gene regulation at Keio University, described the program as having a broad influence. "The people in ACE will instruct the next generation and then we can have a big wave in this country. That is our dream." 

He went on to outline his vision for a global impact of ACE, an initiative in which MD Anderson's Global Academic Programs will enthusiastically engage.

Appearing more like a United Nations expert group meeting than a typical stateside academic research gathering, the 2010 Global Academic Program Summit brought together representatives from 12 countries and 16 of GAP's 22 sister institutions (SIs).

The two-day event in mid-December was the first of its kind hosted by MD Anderson's Global Academic Programs. The summit was organized to launch the Sister Institution Network Fund (SINF) and the Collexis Research Profiles tool, both intended to accelerate and enable collaborative research between faculty at MD Anderson and the SIs.

SINF is a newly created seed fund that will provide $100,000 to faculty at MD Anderson who collaboratively engage with researchers at one or more of GAP's sister institutions. This is the first time MD Anderson is dedicating resources to spark work specifically with collaborating SIs. Sister Institutions would ideally match MD Anderson's investment by providing similar funding to their researchers. The most important consideration is that the resources to engage in the proposed work are present at all participating institutions.

Since MD Anderson and SI faculty may not yet be aware of all research partners with whom they could pursue projects and SINF funding, GAP has also deployed the Collexis Research Profiles tool. This database allows investigators to identify experts by research concepts and to see networks of collaborating scientists. In the near future, the tool will include information pertaining to researchers at the SIs.

Together, the two resources are the newest programs from the Center for Global Oncology and underline the dedication of MD Anderson to energize our network of collaborating institutions to reach beyond meetings, symposiums and conferences, which have been the historic bedrock of SI relationships.
 
SIs with lengthy affiliations attended the summit, as well as representatives from GAP's newest sister institutions -- Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Neoplasicas (INEN) of Lima, Peru, and King Hussein Cancer Center of Amman, Jordan -- and possible future sister institution, Barretos Cancer Hospital of Barretos, Brazil.

To Mahmoud Sarhan, M.D., CEO and general director of the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC), the summit was an important opportunity to meet with members of MD Anderson and the sister institutions while gaining a better understanding of the changing emphasis of GAP toward one of active research collaboration.

"We (KHCC) have a wonderful cancer treatment program, but there are two areas we hope to improve by working with MD Anderson: our integrative medicine and personalized cancer care."  Sarhan adds, "We will definitely be applying to the Sister Institution Network Fund and already have the matching funds to begin research."

Carlos Vallejos, M.D., director of Peru's INEN, also expressed his enthusiasm for participating in the SI network and promised to bring his center's strength in clinical trials to the group. Vallejos went on to convey his desire to collaborate on research involving understudied U.S. cancers that are also important public health problems in Peru.

Many at the summit echoed similar objectives, although most recognized the infancy of the program and the inevitable unforeseen kinks to work through over the next year as the SINF assesses and supports its first research programs.

"We are planning on funding at least 10 research projects in the first year," explains Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., vice president for Global Academic Programs. "But if we receive additional high quality applications, we will try to fund more."

Each sister institution presented a 10-minute overview of their cancer research efforts, emphasizing opportunities for collaboration. These research briefs allowed newer SIs to gain a better understanding of the objectives and focus of their fellow sister institutions, as well as inform MD Anderson faculty of SI pursuits.

Perhaps the most productive portion of the summit occurred in the closing hour when John Mendelsohn, M.D., president of MD Anderson, and Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., provost and executive vice president, joined Bogler and the summit participants for wrap-up discussions focused on the big picture.

Productive suggestions included: development of cross-institutional workshops focused on specific disease sites; additional leadership provided by MD Anderson to enable communication and dissemination of information between developing research groups; and dedication to working toward cooperative design of clinical research studies.

Bogler is pleased with the results of the summit. "I think we were able to reach an agreement on how to move ahead together, and that our faculty and the faculty at our sister institutions are excited about the new fund and conducting collaborative research."

GAPsummit.Cancerwise.1.jpg

During a conference held Nov. 13-14 at MD Anderson's sister institution, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it was evident that the desire to develop a better approach to cancer therapy is global. 


Speakers from MD Anderson, Harvard, Duke and CUHK, among others, explored the universal themes of teasing apart the complexities of the biology of cancer in order to allow doctors to pick the best therapy for each patient. Something that made this conference unique, in my experience, was the opening -- more on that later.
 
Faculty champions

The meeting was co-chaired by Professor Anthony Chan, director of the Hong Kong Cancer Institute & Sir Y.K. Pao Center for Cancer at CUHK, and Professor Alfred Yung, M.D., chair of MD Anderson's Department of Neuro-Oncology. They are the "faculty champions" of the MDACC-CUHK sister relationship. Having brought the two institutions together in 2008, we continue to make connections between our faculty to spark collaboration. One of the strongest interactions is between Dr. Vivian Lui of CUHK and Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Systems Biology at MD Anderson. Lui learned RPPA, a key systems technique, in Mills' lab and together they are exploring signaling in nasophayngeal carcinoma, which recently resulted in a paper in Oncogene.
 
Similar experiences among our sisters
Remarkable to me was the similarity of patient outcomes and approaches across several of the institutions in our Sister Institution Network. Many of our SIs in Asia were represented at the meeting, including Fudan University Cancer Hospital (Shanghai), Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital (Tianjing), Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Center (Guangzhou) and China Medical University Hospital (Taichung). Presentations from Dr. Zhong-Pin Chen from Sun Yat-Sen University, Dr. Danny Chan from CUHK and Charles Conrad, M.D., from MD Anderson showed broadly equivalent responses to current glioma therapies, and underlined the need for better therapy and markers. Such similarities also emerged in discussions of lung cancer by various speakers, including presentations by Dr. Qinghua Zhou from Tianjin and Dr. Guo Liang Jiang, president of Fudan University Cancer Hospital.
 
Lion Dance
Accompanying the legendary hospitality of Hong Kong, graciously orchestrated by our host, Dr. Anthony Chan, was the most fun opening to a conference I've ever seen -- the Lion Dance. This traditional ritual promotes a long life and a good conference, and it started the meeting with energy and fun. I was honored to be asked to paint the eyes of the lion, which wakes it up at the beginning of the dance. As you can see, the lion got up close and personal with the front row and welcomed us to Hong Kong with some real flair.
 

 
Hmm ... perhaps our own conference services department could add this to the list of available entertainment options.
 

SCR2010-2.jpgThe Symposium on Cancer Research held recently at MD Anderson brought together internationally recognized scientists from academic, industry and regulatory agencies to describe and discuss state-of-the-art approaches to personalized cancer therapy and prevention. Symposium chairs were Waun Ki Hong, M.D., Stanley Hamilton, M.D., and Lajos Pusztai, M.D., D.Phil. 

More than 300 participants attended presentations and poster sessions, at which 12 awards were given. In a very dynamic set of lectures that engendered active discussion, the speakers covered systems approaches to discovering the best markers to guide therapy and emphasized new technologies that will revolutionize how we assess patient health and disease. 


Several cutting-edge examples of how personalized medicine is being brought to specific diseases, including breast and lung cancer, were presented in depth. The integration of this approach in MD Anderson's Phase I program was showcased, and new lab-based insights focusing on models and signal pathways also were discussed.

Important cautionary tales on the appropriate use of bioinformatics and conforming to regulatory requirements were included to help the audience understand the larger context in which these exciting developments are moving to the clinic.

Keynote lectures were given by Joe Gray, Ph.D. and Waun Ki Hong, MD. The Bertner Memorial Lecture was delivered by Carlo Croce, M.D., and the Heath Memorial Award by Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D. Michael Davies, M.D., Ph.D., won the Wilson Stone Award.

For more information on the program and awards, and to view the presentations, please visit www.mdanderson.org/scr. The series also is available to watch or download on iTunesU

A research retreat was held Oct. 4-5 in Arizona. Teams from MD Anderson led by Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., vice president for Global Academic Programs, and Banner Health led by Bill Camp, chief executive officer, Banner Research Institute, participated in detailed discussions to formulate a research program for the new Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is scheduled to open in fall 2011.

On the first day the team from MD Anderson, including Aman Buzdar, M.D., vice president ad interim of Clinical Research, and Paul Papagni, executive director of Clinical Research, provided an overview of the current research program at Banner MD Anderson. Mark Starling M.D., medical director, Banner Heart Hospital, presented an overview of the research program in Cardiology and the concept of a Physicians' Advisory Council that has been adopted by Banner Health for selecting clinical trials. Marwan Sabbagh, M.D., described Banner's clinical research program in Neuroscience. The group was also given a tour of Banner Sun Health Research Institute, including its unique Brain and Total Body Donation Program, led by Joe Rogers, Ph.D., and Tom Beach, M.D., Ph.D.

The second day was dedicated to discussions regarding the vision for the clinical research program at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. The group articulated our joint vision to bring a patient experience to the center that is closely modeled on what we do in Houston. Buzdar stressed the need for establishing a sound research infrastructure to ensure the development of a successful program that would offer high quality clinical trials. Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., associate vice president of Global Academic Programs, stated "once the infrastructure has been established and clinical investigators identified, research projects could be started in a relatively short time." The retreat ended with a tour of Banner Gateway Medical Center, which would provide the inpatient facility for Banner MD Anderson, and the new adjoining cancer center building that is under construction and will house the outpatient facilities.

 

Banner Under Construction.JPG

UICC banner2.JPGMD Anderson was well represented at the International Union for Cancer Control (UCCI) World Cancer Congress held Aug. 17-21 in Shenzhen, China. The Congress was attended by 3,222 participants from 92 countries. Dr. Xishan Hao, president of MD Anderson sister institution Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital, served as the leader of the congress. Several MD Anderson faculty including Wei Zhang, Ph.D., and Qingyi Wei, M.D., Ph.D., were among the speakers. 
 
Shenzhen.GAP.jpgThe conference included sessions focused on cancer prevention, cancer treatment, supportive and palliative care and tobacco control. 
While many of the topics are ones that are addressed at every biannual congress, one of the newer themes highlighted this year was the impact of diet, nutrition and exercise on cancer risk. The goal of the UICC is to reduce the global cancer burden by bringing together advocates, policy-makers, physicians, scientists and donor communities. The event also featured 61 exhibitors focused on cancer control.
The UICC has written a World Cancer Declaration outlining 11 specific targets that will help improve cancer control and the related priority actions needed to achieve those targets by 2020.

By: Shubhra Ghosh MD, CCRP, Project Manager, Global Academic Programs


A research retreat was held in Houston July 29-30 in which participants from Banner Health and MD Anderson discussed developing a research program at the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, due to open in Phoenix next year.


The visitors from Banner had the opportunity to meet experts from MD Anderson who introduced them to different aspects of cancer research. Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., provost and executive vice president, talked about MD Anderson's mission to eliminate cancer within Texas and beyond by a seamless integration of research with clinical care and prevention. He mentioned that MD Anderson is using advanced educational and training programs and developing new technologies to enhance the level of cancer care.

 

GAP_Banner2010.JPGEric Reiman, M.D., chief scientific officer, Banner Research Institute, expressed great interest in developing a clinical research program at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center that would offer the best treatment options to patients coming to the new center. He wanted to know how MD Anderson works with its partners in this regard. Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., vice president for Global Academic Programs, presented an overview of the global network of MD Anderson partners that collaborate on research projects to make breakthroughs in the understanding of cancer and explore novel ways to treat it.

 

The significance of research-driven cancer care was highlighted in the presentations on various types of cancers. All speakers stated that the vast majority of clinicians in their departments were actively involved in research. Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., associate vice president for Global Academic Programs, Clinical Research, summed up the group's sentiment by stating that "in cancer, research-based care is the best care."

 

Bill Camp, chief executive officer for the Banner Research Institute, presented Banner's current research infrastructure and stated the importance of developing a fiscally viable research program at the new cancer center. The group discussed the challenges and investment required to set up the infrastructure in terms of personnel, policies and procedures, information technology, quality assurance and quality control, and oversight.


The plan made by the integrated team foresees starting with a focused deployment of clinical trials and research in selected specialties, to achieve early success, and then move aggressively to bring the new center up to speed with research closely tracking clinical development.


The retreat ended with an agreement to continue the dialogue. The next step is for MD Anderson to visit Banner.

 

GAP_Clinica_Alemana.jpgBy Karen V. Francis, Project Director, Global Academic Programs

Specialists from MD Anderson recently participated in a Uro-Oncology Update, which was jointly organized by our faculty and their colleagues at Clinica Alemana in Santiago, Chile.

Clinica Alemana is one of our three sister institutions located in South America. Since 2003 when our agreement was signed, Clinica Alemana faculty have continued to collaborate with their MD Anderson colleagues in the departments of Urology, Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Radiation Oncology regarding novel treatments and technologies used in the fields of prostate, renal, bladder and testicular cancers.

MD Anderson faculty who participated in the symposium were Colin Dinney, M.D., Christopher Wood, M.D., John Davis, M.D., Ashish Kamat, M.D., Randall Millikan, M.D., Ph.D., and Deborah Kuban, M.D. George Thalmann, M.D., chair of Urology at the University Hospital of Bern in Switzerland, also participated.

A total of 166 attendees participated in the two-day course, with the majority being physicians. Other attendees were residents, fellows, interns, nurses and pharmacists. Most were from the metropolitan area of Santiago, with representation from almost all of the public and private hospitals and teaching universities. 

Dinney emphasized the multidisciplinary care of these cancers, which involves coordinating with urologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. He commented that "MD Anderson has a trusting and cultivated relationship with Clinica Alemana, which provides the opportunity for us to extend our expertise and discoveries in genitourinary oncology to benefit those living in Chile, and by doing so, extends our influence well beyond the boundaries of Texas and the United States."
 
More than 1,600 Chileans die each year from prostate cancer. Recent studies have shown that with an annual exam, that number can be reduced by 20% to 50%.


Mario Fernandez, M.D., a urologist at Clinica Alemana and director of the symposium, noted that courses like this are very helpful and practical from the clinical perspective, and that we must continue to recognize the importance of quality, evidence-based science in daily practice.


He added that it's equally relevant to coordinate a multidisciplinary team. In the end, the great benefit is realized by the patient.


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