The guiding principles of the Louisiana Oncology Society are to promote collegiality among its members, encourage continuing medical education, and advocate public health-care policy for cancer survivors.
Founded on September 1, 1992, by John M. Rainey, MD, the Louisiana Oncology Society has had numerous legislative successes (see sidebar) since that time, including leading the effort to support Louisiana’s Oral Chemotherapy Parity Law, which was passed in 2012 and is now in effect throughout the state. The Society has also been instrumental in forging relationships among oncologists and oncology fellows across Louisiana and in neighboring states, and in ensuring that patients receive quality care.
The ASCO Post talked with Roy S. Weiner, MD, President of the Louisiana Oncology Society and Associate Dean for Clinical Research and Training at Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, about the Society’s history, its mission, and its future goals.
What is the mission of the Louisiana Oncology Society?
The mission of our Society is to promote collegiality among its members, provide continuing medical education opportunities, and serve as an advocacy group for public policy issues that affect the quality of our practices and care for our patients. The Society addresses our inherently local and regional issues, and provides an opportunity to be most effective in carrying out that three-part mission.
Oral Chemotherapy Parity Law
Your most recent legislative accomplishment is passage of Louisiana’s Oral Chemotherapy Parity Law. How will the law impact care for patients with cancer?
This was a big effort, but we had a strong ally in Rep. Greg Cromer, Chairman of the House Committee on Insurance. Rep. Cromer worked with his colleagues to pass the bill, and our members testified before committee legislators about the importance of passage of the bill. We also worked with the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to support the legislation.
The Oral Chemotherapy Parity Law ensures that patients will have access to oral cancer medications without being subjected to undue financial hardship because of high deductibles or copayments for these drugs. Now there is parity between oral and intravenous cancer drugs, so patients will be able to afford—and get—the most appropriate therapy for their cancer.
What current challenges do you face as a state society?
Our greatest challenge is to be able to provide cancer care that satisfies our high standards while falling within the resource allocation for compensation. But the services that we can offer patients are constantly threatened.
About a month ago, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal decided to curtail state funds for end-of-life palliative care, and through a great effort by our Society membership and our patients, we were able to get a reprieve until June 30. There is a legislative session between now and then, and I hope we can be effective in being able to retain that care for our patients. If so, we will be able to add to the tremendous track record of legislative success since the formation of the Louisiana Oncology Society.
How many meetings with members do you have each year?
We have an annual meeting that is held jointly with oncologists from the state of Mississippi in order to get a critical mass and extend our collegiality to our neighbors.
One of the features of our annual meeting is a debate on a topical issue among medical oncology fellows from the academic training programs in Louisiana and Mississippi. We have three medical schools in Louisiana—Tulane University School of Medicine, LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, and LSU Medical Center in Shreveport—and one medical school in Mississippi, at the University of Mississippi. The debate allows fellows to get to know each other in friendly competition.
We hold another annual meeting in New Orleans, which is devoted to clinical practice issues, such as reimbursement concerns and concerns regarding electronic medical records, and office managers also participate in those meetings. In addition, we have frequent conference calls to keep members current on issues.
Does having a state society also provide the opportunity for members to stay connected with patients?
Yes, it does. As you know, Louisiana has been the victim of severe weather. The Louisiana Oncology Society has established a website where patients can find help in locating medical care within the state if they are displaced during storms. It certainly gives us comfort to know our patients will be able to continue their cancer treatment regardless of where they are.
What goals do you want to address immediately?
We plan to offer educational programming and opportunities for oncologists in a variety of different practice settings, including in private community-based settings as well as in hospital- and academic-based positions. We are trying to expand our programs and services to keep up with the changes in oncologists’ needs. ■