ChristianaCare’s Graham cancer center adds primary care services

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Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute at ChristianaCare has become one of the first cancer programs in the nation to offer patients undergoing cancer treatment the opportunity to see a primary care provider on site if they don’t already have one of their own.

The new primary care practice builds on the progress of the Graham Cancer Center’s Oncology Express Unit, a pilot program offering urgent care to cancer patients in distress during treatment. The primary care practice will see patients with non-urgent health concerns, expanding on-site services at the Oncology Express Unit to an even broader population of patients in need, a release stated.

Since March 2018, the Oncology Express Unit has treated nearly 1,550 patients with acute care needs, 90 percent of whom avoided an emergency department visit.

“Our ability to offer primary care services to our patients who need them alongside a multidisciplinary roster of cancer services all under one roof is highly unusual among major cancer centers,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America endowed medical director at the Graham Cancer Center. “By adding a primary care provider on site, we are taking a novel approach to providing both the latest cancer treatments but also care designed to improve our patients’ long-term health.”

An informal survey among cancer patients at the Graham Cancer Center indicated that as many as 30 percent did not have a primary care provider. Having a primary care provider on site will open the doors for dialogue with the entire cancer care team so that essential patient care is not delayed.

“Our purpose is two-fold,” said Christopher Koprowski, M.D., director of Quality and Safety at the Graham Cancer Center. “We want to take care of primary care problems that may arise during treatment to reduce urgent care or emergency department visits, and, after cancer treatment, to help our patients continue to have their primary care needs addressed.”

Cancer diagnoses often happen unexpectedly, often in a specialist’s office or in the emergency department, and more than half of patients diagnosed with cancer have other ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Primary care provider Debra Delaney, RN, has joined the team at the Graham Cancer Center at the Oncology Express Unit to care for patients referred by their cancer care providers. Her 20-plus years of experience at ChristianaCare include 12 years as an advanced practice nurse taking care of adult and pediatric patients in trauma and acute care settings.

Delaney has a keen interest in cancer care delivery and works closely with cancer care providers at the Graham Cancer Center, including members of each patient’s multidisciplinary disease site clinic team.

The addition of a family nurse practitioner to the cancer care team is the first step toward what could become an even broader partnership between oncology and family medicine.

“We are excited to welcome Debra Delaney as our first Family Nurse Practitioner on site at the Graham Cancer Center,” said Dr. Teal. “To our knowledge, there are no fellowships or specialty training for providers who specialize in both primary as well as oncologic care, so we also are looking at the possibility of eventually establishing a fellowship training program in cancer medicine for our family medicine providers.”

The family nurse practitioner sees patients by referral, Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to noon, at the primary care practice in the Oncology Express Unit, on the first floor of the Graham Cancer Center in the West Pavilion. Plans are to eventually expand practice hours.

For more information about the Graham Center visit

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