HCC celebrates ranking as one of the nation's top 25 hospitals in cancer treatment

August 14, 2018
Rosalind Rivers pets one of MUSC's pet therapy dogs
Rosalind Rivers pets one of MUSC's pet therapy dogs that visits Hollings Cancer Center patients. Photo by Sarah Pack

Balloons decked the hallways at Hollings Cancer Center as the word spread that MUSC Health was named by U.S. News & World Report one of the nation’s top 25 hospitals in the treatment of cancer.

David M. Mahvi, M.D., chief of the Oncology Integrated Center for Comprehensive Excellence, said faculty and staff at Hollings Cancer Center are thrilled to be in the top 25 cancer programs in the nation. It is validation of the excellent care that is provided, he said, explaining that the ranking uses parameters that evaluate the types of patients treated, the quality of care provided and the programs offered to patients.

“In all these categories, we score exceptionally high. We treat the most complex patients, our survival outcomes are outstanding, and we offer programs that are important not only to the physical health of our patients but for their needs overall as they navigate their treatment.”

Though rankings such as this do not drive goals, it is validation that what is being done is working, he said.

“It's amazing. It's the reason I came to MUSC,” he said of the achievement. “It is the culture of Hollings that makes this all achievable. Every single employee is focused on delivering the highest quality care in an environment that is patient focused. I'm super proud. It's humbling to work at a place like this.”

Gustavo W. Leone, Ph.D., director of Hollings Cancer Center, agreed.

“We are honored, privileged and committed to fulfill the expectations of being one of the very top-tier cancer centers in the nation,” he said.

“We have arrived as a leading academic institution, delivering impactful scientific discoveries and the highest quality cancer care at Hollings Cancer Center in a culturally diverse population. Such success is fueled by brilliant researchers, physicians and our expert staff.”

Both leaders are relative newcomers to Hollings Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the state. Mahvi, who also is chief of surgical oncology, joined the MUSC faculty in 2016, and Leone came on board as director of Hollings Cancer Center in 2017.

Hollings Cancer Center is part of MUSC, an academic medical center, and has more than 100 researchers working with clinicians to translate new insights into treatments as quickly as possible. That’s one of its strengths, said Mahvi. The center has a wide range of cancer specialists who can look at each patient’s cancer individually, while working as teams to offer the best treatment options.

MUSC has 11 tumor boards that meet weekly with experts including pathologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, oncology nurse navigators and surgeon all weighing in on the best treatment options.

“It's really a team, and when we see a new patient, we take a giant step back, and we look through everything that they have and try to arrive at something that will make them better. It’s that magic, you know, where everybody gets in a room, and they come out the other end and say, ‘This is how we're going to treat this patient.’ It really is something you can't easily produce. You have to get the right people. It has to be the right format and, for whatever reason, it has come together here.”

Hollings Cancer Center staff also has been working hard to broaden access to cancer care and expand support services, he said. Beyond providing quality medical treatment, the center also offers a wide range of other services, including consults for financial, nutrition, psychological and palliative care needs.

“We also have focused on the experience of the patient’s family. We are doing all we can to make the treatment of cancer an outpatient experience. We are transitioning our bone marrow transplant program to an outpatient setting. We have made strides in care coordination to keep our patients out of the ER.

The team has made a pledge to offer appointments to new cancer patients within 24 hours, Mahvi said. The U.S. News Best Hospitals methodologies in most areas of care are based largely or entirely on objective measures such as risk-adjusted survival and readmission rates, volume, patient experience, patient safety and quality of nursing, among other care-related indicators.

“This allows us to deal with the distress of a cancer diagnosis and utilize our resources to support patients as they grapple with all the changes a cancer diagnosis entails.

Those resources include providing even simple services, such as pet therapy.

Cancer patient Rosalind Rivers said she’s glad to have Hollings Cancer Center as a resource for the treatment of her brain cancer. She has had surgery, chemotherapy and now is undergoing radiation therapy. “I’m coming along. I’m doing the best I can. All is well.”

During an infusion visit, she enjoyed cuddling with one of the pet therapy dogs. It’s the small touches that can make a difference, too, she said. “I thought it was wonderful, and other patients can benefit, too.” Mahvi said it’s the patients who keep the team motivated.

“I think our providers and support staff at Hollings Cancer Center deserve recognition for the tireless work they do for our patients. Cancer is a devastating word for patients to hear every time they come to Hollings. What they find when they walk in the door, though, is a group of people who are only there to make their lives better.”

In addition to the cancer ranking, MUSC Health also was named by U.S. News & World Report for the fourth year in a row as the number one hospital in South Carolina and one of the country's top-25 hospitals in the treatment of ear, nose and throat (ENT) disorders and gynecology. MUSC’s nephrology and orthopedics specialties also received national recognition, placing within the country’s top-50 hospitals for those services. MUSC was high performing in gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics, neurology and neurosurgery, pulmonology, rheumatology and urology.