Understanding the needs of cancer patients in the community (and their families) is crucial in the fight against cancer. To lead this effort, the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes has named social work professor Barbara Jones as associate director for social sciences and community based research. This unique role prioritizes areas of research that are not as well investigated, such as psychosocial oncology. Psychosocial oncology explores the social, psychological, emotional, spiritual and functional aspects of cancer and its treatment.
“We will focus on more than the body,” Jones said. “We will focus on the whole person and their environment and what it means to a person to have a cancer diagnosis and how they are integrating it into their identity.”
Community collaboration is a hallmark of both Dell Medical School and the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes. Community Based Research will allow the Institutes to work closely with the community and those who are living through these experiences to determine the best model of care to meet needs of the patients and caregivers.
“We are taking a broad approach that says that the experts in this — the community members who live with cancer — are the ones who can teach us what we need to study and where we can improve,“ Jones added.
Jones’ passion began early in her career, at the bedside of children and families who were facing cancer. She joined The University of Texas at Austin School of Social work in 2004 and currently serves as associate dean for health affairs. She has dedicated her research to identifying systematic methods to address the needs of cancer patients, including pediatric palliative care, social work interventions and adolescent and young adult cancer survivors.
Additionally, Jones is no stranger to breaking new ground. She teaches an interdisciplinary seminar in psychosocial oncology, the first academic class of its kind in the United States that focuses on preparing graduate students in social work, nursing, psychology, public health, health kinesiology, human ecology, nutrition and pharmacy to provide clinical services and conduct research in psychosocial oncology. She also co-directs the interprofessional education program at Dell Medical School, a longitudinal, face-to face collaborative experience that teaches students in medicine, social work, pharmacy and nursing to work together, all while putting the patients and their families at the center of care.
“We are excited to have Barbara officially join the Institutes’ team,” said Gail Eckhardt, MD, Director of the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes at the Dell Medical School. “Building a new cancer center gives us a unique opportunity to rethink cancer care in Austin, and Barbara’s new role will improve how we deliver patient-centered cancer care and integrate the patient’s care ecosystem .”
Jones’ first task as associate director is to collect data from patients and community members which will allow the Institutes to better understand local needs in Austin for some of the more prevalent cancer types and demographics that will be served in Dell Med clinics. This data will be collected by meeting with patients and caregivers and identifying areas of opportunity to improve care.
“Because our patient support programs are born out of addressing gaps in the patient experience,” Jones said. “It’s important to keep a pulse on needs locally and nationally to improve our services.”