Sylvester’s Psycho-Oncologists Present Findings at Two National Conferences

Providing support for socially isolated seniors with cancer was the subject of one of four presentations by psycho-oncologists at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System, at two renowned national conferences.

Group photo of psycho-oncologists from Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Sylvester psycho-oncologists presented on a range of topics at two recent national conferences.

Sylvester’s professionals were featured at the annual conference of the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS), held March 9-12 in Portland, Oregon.

“The theme of the APOS conference this year was rebuilding meaningful connections through practice, advocacy and research,” said Maria Adelaida Rueda-Lara, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and medical director of psycho-oncology at Sylvester.

APOS Presentations

Dr. Rueda-Lara chaired a Sylvester panel that discussed “Complex Challenges of Treating Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults with Cancer.” Speakers included Joycelyn Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; Zelde Espinel, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; Mary Kauffman, music therapist; and Christopher Fitzmaurice, M.S., exercise physiologist.

“Social isolation is a risk factor, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and frailty,” said Dr. Rueda-Lara. “Patient-centered approaches are essential to treat isolation, loneliness and mental illness in older adult patients.”

Brittany Wright, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, gave a podium presentation at APOS on “Recommendations for Improving Health Equity for Sexual and Gender Minority Oncology Patient’s Psychosocial Needs.” Her talk focused on the increased health risks facing sexual and gender minority cancer patients and noted the importance of providing resources to address cancer prevention, treatment, end-of-life and survivorship concerns.

Maria Hadjikyriakou, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, gave a podium presentation at APOS on “Creating a Psycho-Oncology Curriculum in a Psychiatric Residency Program.” She noted the importance of developing a psycho-oncology curriculum to increase knowledge and clinical skills in treating psychiatric issues among patients with cancer, and cited Sylvester’s four-week psycho-oncology rotation as a model.

Meeting of the American Society of Preventive Oncology

Dr. Espinel also represented Sylvester Cancer Support Services with a presentation on “Climate Change and Cancer” at the annual meeting of the American Society of Preventive Oncology, which took place March 12-14 in San Diego. She discussed how cancer patients are a vulnerable population during climate-driven disasters, adding, “Customized climate change and disaster preparedness guidance for cancer patients is a priority.”

Dr. Espinel suggested designing local cancer center websites to include a dedicated, easily accessible section that provides clear cancer-specific guidance on disaster preparedness and climate change. “Sylvester is well positioned to become a knowledge hub for disaster preparedness, as we continuously improve our adaptation efforts,” she said.

Reflecting on the four presentations, Dr. Rueda-Lara said that they represented the multidisciplinary approach of Sylvester Cancer Support Services.

“We strive to develop innovative health interventions that help patients through their cancer journey,” she said. “Our psycho-oncology professionals deal with the human side of cancer to help reduce the psychological burden of this disease and improve the quality of life for our patients.”

Tags: Cancer Support Services, Christopher Fitzmaurice, Dr. Brittany Wright, Dr. Joycelyn Lee, Dr. Maria Hadjikyriakou, Dr. Maria Rueda-Lara, Dr. Zelde Espinel, Mary Kaufman, Psycho-oncology, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center