COA Conference Changes With the Times

The 2016 Community Oncology Conference, Innovation in Cancer Care: Moving From Theory to Practice, from April 13-15, will feature an expanded lineup of clinical presentations.

Lucio N. Gordan, MD

When it opens next month at the prestigious Lowes Royal Pacific Resort, the 2016 Community Oncology Conference, Innovation in Cancer Care: Moving From Theory to Practice, from April 13-15, will feature an expanded lineup of clinical presentations, part of an effort to attract more oncologists and other clinically minded healthcare personnel to this annual event, which has traditionally been more focused on the business of running an independent practice.

Lucio N. Gordan, MD, of Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, a co-chair of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) conference this year, has worked hard to expand the clinical offerings, recognizing the attraction they have to physicians and other clinical workers in the oncology profession. “Having a dual meeting serves two purposes. We were able to recruit a top-notch faculty for the clinical track, so I’m very happy,” Gordan said.

However, the conference will retain its uniquely strong business content, with special emphasis this year on the Medicare changes up ahead that involve participation in cost-saving models that deliver more patient value, and with an additional focus on some of the incentive systems that physicians in the oncology field tend to say give them the most cause for concern about this new wave of adjustment.

Something new on the horizon that COA also is responding to in this year’s conference lineup is a segment on employers stepping up to ensure that their employees are well covered. More employer involvement in payment issues is a transformation that has taken root and will make a difference in the way practices receive their payments, said conference co-chair Robert Baird, CEO of Dayton Physicians Network of Ohio.

“The conference has changed and reinvented itself every year, in relationship or in accordance with the healthcare landscape, payment reform, legislative changes, patient care initiatives, and the quality initiative,” says Baird. “The big issue this year is that everybody is going to be impacted by the changes in Medicare. Being the largest payer in the country, Medicare can really drive a lot of policy.”

The growth of patient advocacy has long found a champion in COA; presentations on Capitol Hill issues and how patients and advocates can step up and support their community oncology practices are plentiful on this conference slate, as in previous years. The goal has always been to involve patients, advocates, physicians, nurses, and business administrators in this annual event with a balanced roster of offerings, says Ted Okon, executive director of COA.

Baird’s own practice has established a COA Patient Advocacy Network (CPAN) group. A nurse educator and patient advocate, along with some patients, will be heading down to Orlando, Florida for the conference, as well. “CPAN is really teaching patients how they can help other patients in their market or region to work together to support community cancer care,” says Baird.

Quite often a patient who has come to appreciate the service and quality available at a community practice will return that investment of hard work and dedication by putting a public face on his or her recovery, says Okon.

Such is the case of this year’s keynote speaker, Joan Lunden, special correspondent for NBC’s Today Show, who in 2014 revealed on Good Morning America that she had triple-negative breast cancer.

Lunden will be introduced by Tracey Weisberg, MD, of New England Cancer Specialists, where Lunden was treated during her struggle with breast cancer.

Look for complete coverage of the clinical, business, and advocacy programs at this year’s COA Orlando conference by the OncLive news team. Stories will be posted on and; expanded coverage will be available in various MJH Associates print publications following the 3-day event.

On the clinical side, the emphasis is on the latest advances in the research field that can be applied in practice. Key areas to be covered during the conference include chronic lymphocytic leukemia, non—small cell lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, multiple myeloma, and melanoma. A forward-looking segment will provide a rundown on advances in immunotherapy that are just ahead.

“We broadened the clinical track just to bring the cutting-edge research results to the audience, so it’s a more encompassing theme as compared to the previous years,” says Gordan. “Coincidentally, there have been a lot of advancements in these areas not only in immunotherapy but in molecularly guided therapies for all of the topics that we picked to be discussed in this meeting. It’s very exciting.” A strong lineup of speakers will help keep the audience’s attention, among them Howard “Skip” Burris III, MD, chief medical officer and executive director of the Sarah Cannon Research Institute.

Burris, one of OncLive’s 2014 Giants of Cancer Care award winners for his contributions to oncology, will deliver an overview of advances over the last 12 months. “Skip is very well positioned to speak on that, because he runs one of the largest clinical trial networks in the world,” Gordan said.

The conference boils down to something for everybody, organizers said, but not to be overlooked are the opportunities to meet and greet. “It’s really the place to network if you’re looking to network,” says Okon.

Practices also will find support in the array of vendors present at the conference who are eager to meet with healthcare workers and discuss products and services that can help their practices to perform better.

“We’ve got all the vendors lined up that can help practices meet these challenges, whether it’s through an electronic health record or clinical tools. There are also potentially new services and new programs that practices can implement not only to help them enhance their quality and patient care but also provide new revenue,” says Baird.

For more information about this year’s COA conference, visit