Panama City - Gulf Coast Medical Center is affiliating with one of the most well-known and respected hospitals in the nation. Gulf Coast administrators announced Friday morning they are the first in Florida to join the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Cancer Care Network.
Gulf Coast officials say this UAB collaboration gives them unprecedented access to cutting edge clinical trials and research, and gives local cancer patients access to the highest quality care, without leaving town.
Jean Tompkins was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. She made the 9-hour round-trip to UAB's Comprehensive Cancer Center many times. "Many people don't have the finances or a car to get to UAB and it's a long drive," said Tompkins.
Friday morning, Gulf Coast Medical Center officials announced a new relationship that will hopefully make treatment easier for future patients. "We are pleased to announce our affiliation with the UAB Cancer Care Network," said Brian Baumgardner, the CEO of GCMC.
The new affiliation will not only give locals access to UAB's cancer experts, but also allows them the chance to participate in cutting edge clinical trials. "We are actually treating patients with brand new drugs and brand new modalities and this affiliation will bring those new modalities here to the Gulf Coast," said Dr. Edward Partridge, Director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and president of the American Cancer Society Inc.
UAB's name carries a lot of weight in the medical world. "They know for sure they are getting the best care that they can possibly get at this moment in time. You have maybe a 2 year advantage over other institutions," said Partridge. "(Without UAB and Gulf Coast's care) I don't believe I would be here today to say I am so glad UAB is going to be with us to have the clinical trials for the people who might not be able to have them otherwise," said Tompkins who is also the director of Gulf Coast Medical Center's Case Management.
The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 40 facilities with the National Cancer Institute designation, and it's the only one in the deep south region. Gulf Coast administrators first approached UAB about the affiliation 4 years ago. It's the 5th hospital to join the Cancer Care Network.