Multiple Fields Fight Multiple Myeloma

Monday, February 1, 2016

Collaboration reflects emphasis on interprofessional education

By Anthony Giornalista

Multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, disrupts several organ systems and breaks up the team of cells that keeps the immune system healthy. There are no such rifts, however, among a new team that’s coming together to fight the disease.

The Chicago Multiple Myeloma Rounds, which kick off Feb. 10, will bring together cancer physicians, researchers, nurses, pharmacists, residents and fellows from medical centers across Chicago to tackle the disease. Clinicians will present details about actual multiple myeloma cases and lead the audience in discussion about treatments and approaches to disease management.

Rush, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, the Leukemia Research Foundation and Plexus Communications are co-sponsoring the event, which will take place at the Chicago Marriott at Medical District/UIC. The event is open to all area clinicians and is available for continuing education credit.

“Care for patients with multiple myeloma is very complex,” says Agne Paner, MD, director of the Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Multiple Myeloma Clinic at Rush, who originated the idea of the rounds. “It certainly takes more than one doctor to take care of a patient. You need a whole team of specialists involved.”

Multiple myeloma, a relatively rare disease, stops blood plasma cells from being able to function as part of the team of cells in the human body that keeps the immune system healthy. As a result, bones are weakened, kidney function is impaired and the body’s ability to make blood is compromised.

The disease accounts for 1 percent of all cancers, but it’s the second most common cancer that affects the blood. Each year, approximately 20,000 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and about 10,000 people die from it, according to Paner.

Great strides have been made in fighting the disease recently, particularly during the past year. Ten years ago, patients with multiple myeloma were expected to live only two to three years. Today, patient life expectancy is eight to 10 years, and that outlook probably will improve thanks to the development of significant new drug treatments in 2015.

Power of working together

Paner, who specializes in multiple myeloma, thought of the idea for the Chicago Multiple Myeloma Rounds through collaboration with her colleagues at Rush. Then she brought in other Chicago-area health institutions that have multiple myeloma clinics, including Loyola Medicine, NorthShore University HealthSystem, the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, the University of Chicago Medical Center and John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

Multiple myeloma experts from each participating institution will be present at the rounds, which will take place every three to four months.

“The timing is very right for these rounds, considering the new discoveries and drugs that are available to improve health outcomes for patients with multiple myeloma,” Paner says. “All of the advancements not only offer new opportunities, but also a little bit of confusion. Decision making becomes more complex due to the new information, so an educational event like the Chicago Multiple Myeloma Rounds allows us to share experiences and translate the most recent data into practical treatment plans.”

Taking the lead in interprofessional learning

Physicians learn from nurses and pharmacists, and vice versa, and everyone passes down their expertise to residents and fellows. Opening a conversation with colleagues and experts in myeloma from different institutions will bring different points of view to the table, offering yet another opportunity for learning and development.

Since Rush is an academic medical center, it is in a unique positon to bring together both clinicians and advanced students in a forum such as the Chicago Multiple Myeloma Rounds. The rounds are an extension of the interprofessional education concept that has been embraced at Rush University and each of its four colleges: Rush Medical College, the College of Nursing, the Graduate College and the College of Health Sciences.

New Rush University curriculum initiatives have stressed the importance of interprofessional education — that is, two or two or more professions coming together to learn from each other in order to enhance collaboration and improve health care.

Rush’s Office of Interprofessional Continuing Educaton is critical to the University’s efforts to bring different fields together. It also accredited the Chicago Multiple Myeloma Rounds for continuing education credits for nursing, pharmacists and medicine.

It has been a true team effort to get the rounds up and running.

“We’re happy to be the institution that took the lead in bringing us all together,” Paner says. “But without the other institutions and all of the disciplines coming together, this event would not be possible. It’s very important to have good teamwork and a collegial atmosphere.”