OCT 13, 2020 3:00 PM SGT

FEATURED SPEAKER - Cancer in the era of Covid-19, Public health perspectives

C.E. Credits: P.A.C.E. CE Florida CE
  • Assistant Professor, Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health & Human Longevity - University of California, San Diego

      Dr. Tala Al-Rousan is an internal medicine physician and epidemiologist who designs and develops large scale population studies to understand and evaluate public health interventions. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human longevity at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Al-Rousan holds an MD degree from Cairo University, an MPH from the University of Iowa and a Global health fellowship from the Harvard T. H. Chan school of Public Health. Her research interest in cancer prevention began during medical school where she was part of the presidential campaign for breast cancer early detection and treatment. Prior to joining the UC San Diego faculty, she was a visiting faculty at the Rhodes House at Oxford University and an Atlantic Fellow for Health equity at UC San Francisco. She has a very active research portfolio at both UC San Diego and the Harvard T. H. Chan school of Public Health funded by the National institute of Health Funding as well as foundations including the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Dubai Harvard foundation for Medical research and Gates foundation. She has published extensively in areas of disease prevention, behavioral interventions, aging and health disparities in marginalized populations including prisoners, the homeless and refugees. Her research currently focuses on the COVID-19 impact on essential workers and special populations including refugees and the role of timeliness and availability of viral testing. She also explores the role of the shift to telehealth due to the current pandemic on patients' engagement in healthcare. Dr. Al-Rousan is also the principal investigator of several international studies including grants assessing epidemiologic and epigenetic features of Alzheimer's disease in the Middle East and interventions to control Blood Pressure in Cameroon, Malawi and Peru. She has served as an advisor to the Jordanian Minister of Health on COVID-19 mitigation and containment strategies which informed Jordan's excellent response to the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic. Her work has previously informed the Commission on Cancer at the American College of Surgeons for improving survival and quality of life for cancer patients with low education level and socioeconomic status, and has been cited by the Vice President Joe Biden's National Moonshot Inititaive.


    The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled oncology practices to hit the “reset” button for their care delivery model. Cancer is a Global burden projected to increase to 27 million by 2040 due to population growth, aging population and risk factors. Patients with cancer are one of the most affected groups by the pandemic because they are immunocompromised and require frequent admission to the hospital. There is significant interruption in delivering of care and the incident of cancer diagnoses may increase during and after pandemic due to halted screening. Accumulating data suggest that the likelihood of a severe illness and death from COVID-19 is higher among adult patients with cancer hematologic malignancies. Psychological impact on patients and staff is huge and communication, remote care and e-health are key. Balancing the risks of delaying cancer treatments versus the risks for SARS CoV-2 exposure is challenging during the pandemic as guidelines are constantly changing. Cancer research should be prioritized and funded and innovations in COVID and cancer testing, and screening technologies are needed. Clinicians should proactively discuss goals of care and advance care planning, especially for those with advanced cancer who are at elevated risk for COVID-19. In summary, cancer patients represent a special situation during this pandemic and a tiered approach to testing could help provide them with life-saving chemotherapy without jeopardizing their chances of benefit.

    Learning Objectives:

    • How COVID 19 reshaped the global oncology model
    • Understand the areas of focus within healthcare systems during the pandemic, and how it relates to cancer patients.

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