Mia Jones: Add Jacksonville's Mayo Clinic to state's cancer consortium

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Florida is blessed to have some of the highest quality cancer care centers in the world. Among them is the renowned Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, which is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In fact, Mayo Clinic is unique among major providers of cancer care in that its Comprehensive Cancer Center is the nation’s only multi-campus, multi-state cancer center. If that were not enough recognition, last month Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Surgeon Gen. John Armstrong designated Mayo Clinic and just three other institutions in Florida as state “Cancer Centers of Excellence.”

To enhance the quality of cancer care through patient care, research and education, the Florida Legislature last year created the Florida Consortium of National Cancer Institute Centers. The idea is to create more NCI-designated centers in Florida, while providing support to cancer centers already holding or working toward the NCI designation.

Fortunately, many people will go through life never having to know what an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center is, but if you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it is institutions like Mayo Clinic that are a beacon of hope and offer the most comprehensive diagnosis and treatment options.

You may be surprised to learn that despite its trailblazing work and global respect in helping to treat and heal the most ill among us, Mayo Clinic, with its NCI designation, is not recognized under the Consortium, nor does it receive support under the annual distribution of funds.

I find this omission extremely unfortunate and unjust, especially when you consider that Mayo Clinic is the only recipient of the state’s coveted Cancer Centers of Excellence to be excluded from participation in the Consortium.

To help right this injustice, I recently proposed an amendment to include Mayo Clinic in the state’s Comprehensive Cancer Center program. This would bring Mayo Clinic’s resources and world-class health care to the table for the state. Mayo Clinic is committed to matching all funds provided under the program.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Florida with more than 118,000 Floridians learning of a cancer diagnosis every year. The actions of our Legislature and governor to create the Florida Cancer Centers of Excellence are terrific examples of visionary leadership on behalf of these patients. This vision and belief in science and the healing power of quality health care are essential to shrink the disproportional incidence of cancer in our state, which has the second-highest number of new diagnosed cancer cases in the United States even though we are the fourth-largest state in terms of population.

Still, there is much more work to be done. I vow to work closely with my fellow legislators to help get this amendment passed and ensure that important programs like the Florida Consortium of National Cancer Institute Centers equitably recognize the leading cancer centers in the state.

Mia Jones is a member of the Florida House of Representatives from Jacksonville and is the Democratic Leader Pro-Tempore and ranking member on the Health and Human Services Committee. Column courtesy of Context Florida. 

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