American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

An Update from Timothy Mullett, MD, MBA, FACS Chair, Commission on Cancer

Dear Colleagues,

We want to take this opportunity to wish a very Happy New Year to all of our Commission on Cancer (CoC) accredited cancer program colleagues. We know that 2020 was a challenging year and that those challenges will continue for the foreseeable future but 2021 has opened with much promise for a return back to normal.

From across the country, we hear amazing stories of how programs have responded to the unprecedented trials presented by the coronavirus pandemic with the restrictions placed on traditional patient care. Yet, cancer patients have been cared for with the compassion that they deserve, and programs have demonstrated amazing capacity to adjust to deliver the quality expected by the Commission and deserved by the people they care for.

I am most impressed by the way our professional staff have continued to provide support for your programs, demonstrating a comprehension of the challenges you faced while finding solutions to maintain quality cancer care for your patients.

In addition to the many obstacles your cancer program has faced this past year, the volunteers and staff of the CoC also confronted new obstacles with respect to how we support and continue to accredit our participating cancer programs. In response to the pandemic, the CoC:

  • Postponed 2020 accreditation visits from earlier this year and extended accreditation for up to a year with site visits resuming in 2022.
  • Started virtual site visits with centers to complete those due in 2020 through June of 2021.
  • Led a consortium of cancer specialists to issue guidance for care during the initial pandemic surge.
  • Increased our web-based educational offerings.
  • Continued to work on developing resources to support our accredited cancer programs with implementation of the 2020 standards.
  • Conducted our committee meetings virtually.

As we focus our efforts in the new year, we will:

  • Continue to provide resources and online education to help our accredited programs comply with the new standards and prepare for site visits beginning in 2022.
  • Invest in new education and training opportunities to assist Cancer Liaison Physicians in their role.
  • Evaluate our cancer program categories including development of new guidelines to support networks and pediatric programs and create a new affiliate category that supports a hub and spoke model to support the delivery of cancer care in rural settings.
  • Add value to our accredited centers by investing in expanded training opportunities for our site reviewer team to ensure delivery of a robust site visit that recognizes the strengths and provides solid recommendations and ideas for enhancing the delivery of care.
  • Improve the timeliness of release of the National Cancer Database reporting tools so that cancer programs can assess their performance using more current data.
  • Develop and release a new set of quality measures that address current challenges in clinical care for the major cancer sites.
  • Update our infrastructure with release of a new accreditation portal later this year to support participating cancer programs.
  • Develop strategies to expand messaging to the public and patients about the value of CoC accreditation.
  • Begin planning for the Commission on Cancer 100-year anniversary celebration in 2022 and develop strategies that recognize the contribution made by our accredited cancer programs to cancer care over the past century.

The CoC volunteers remain extremely grateful to the dedicated staff at the American College of Surgeons who, working remotely, continue to apply their knowledge, skills, and expertise to deliver programs and resources to support accredited programs. These talented individuals continue to inspire me as they demonstrate their commitment to our programs in these challenging times. I must recognize the unwavering support from our past chair, Dr. Lawrence Shulman, whose steady leadership has positioned the Commission to remain a true standard in quality cancer care and Dr. Heidi Nelson, the Executive Director for Cancer Programs at the College, providing an integrated foundation for the Commission to carry forth with our mission.

We must recognize that our country is dealing with significant challenges to define social justice and other forces of division. We grieve with you for those lost and impacted by the pandemic and unrest. Meanwhile, the staff and leadership have been able to focus the efforts of the Commission on a positive message, delivering high quality cancer care in an equitable and ever-improving process to achieve the best outcomes. We will continue to use the value of accreditation and our data systems to look for disparities and strive for the best outcome for all.

We thank you for your unwavering commitment to the patients with cancer whom you serve and to the CoC for continuing to recognize the value the accreditation process brings to your cancer program and your patients.

Please feel free to reach out to me, or any of the staff, with questions and suggestions. Your feedback is important to us.

Timothy Mullett, MD, MBA, FACS
Chair, Commission on Cancer
American College of Surgeons
coc@facs.org