Skip to main content

In April, when Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance came together to form Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Wendy Mitsuyama knew good things were coming for UW Medicine patients with cancer.

Mitsuyama is the administrator of oncology services at UW Medical Center and responsible for the clinical integration of the adult cancer program at Fred Hutch, an independent, nonprofit organization, and UW Medical Center.

“My role is to help Fred Hutch and UW Medical Center leaders develop and implement the plan for how to better integrate cancer services, which includes aligning priorities on how best to serve our patients and respond to the needs of our staff and clinicians who are trying to deliver the best cancer care and clinical research. I am helping to facilitate the new Joint Oncology Committee and working with colleagues at both Fred Hutch and UW Medical Center to improve our flow of communication,” says Mitsuyama.

Mitsuyama is optimistic about the incredible work that we can accomplish together. She shares the exciting changes the relationship is bringing to cancer care soon.

You can also read the message from Tim Dellit, MD, interim chief executive officer of UW Medicine, to learn more about the relationship.

Four changes to look for in patient care

Increased screening capacity

Top of the list? Getting as many people in for cancer screenings as possible.

“We are trying to improve the connection between our primary care, cancer screening services and the cancer treatment programs, to better identify and detect cancer and get newly diagnosed patients rapidly into treatment. So now we have, as per our new agreement, a joint cancer screening approach to work together to remove some of our internal system barriers,” says Mitsuyama. “There is opportunity to get more people screened and to find different ways to do that for different populations. We’re hoping to leverage all our available capacity as a system differently — and find patients appointments at the soonest available times and most convenient location.”

Better patient navigation

There will also be more emphasis on helping new patients navigate through a sometimes confusing system of services. Under the oversight of Fred Hutch, the organizations are piloting the use of “access nurses” to help patients understand the various steps and treatments they’ll encounter — making the process faster and simpler.

“It’s helpful to put nursing at the front lines for new cancer patients to educate them about their journey and reassure them, and make sure that they have all their needed clinical information to have that first appointment be as effective as possible,” says Mitsuyama. Access nurses will also play a role in helping identify which patients need multidisciplinary care as well as connecting them more effectively to clinical trials.

Improved outpatient services

Outpatient support services, such as social work and nutrition consultations, are invaluable when it comes to improving outcomes for patients with cancer. This is because it’s essential to understand the kinds of barriers patients are facing in their everyday lives (like food insecurity, unstable relationships, etc.) that may impede their ability to receive their cancer treatment.

“We’ve done a great job at UW Medical Center over the years with supportive care in the inpatient setting, but we need to add more support for patients when they are outpatient. And that would be leveraging the expertise of Fred Hutch to advise us on what’s the best approach to expanding these services,” says Mitsuyama.

Having built its own robust support care program, Fred Hutch will be able to recommend standards and a clear vision of what the supported care should look like for patients.

Streamlined cancer care

This partnership is unique because each organization fills a particular role as it relates to cancer services, which will help streamline the process.

“Neither organization can operate a comprehensive clinical offering without the other — it requires both of us to be able to deliver the continuum of care,” Mitsuyama says. “We are trying to establish a new way of making our ‘front doors’ simpler and efficient so that patients can get in more rapidly. If we can make it faster, clearer and simpler for patients to get in the door and get to what they need — to help unburden families — that is probably what I’m most excited for. Some changes we can implement quickly, but others will require thoughtful planning, because you can’t uncomplicate this system overnight.”

Looking forward

Across UW Medical Center and Fred Hutch we have many complementary capabilities to support improved cancer care. The organizations together have the clinical care and research expertise to solve once challenging problems, such as building clinical capacity and delivering patient care more effectively.

“Bringing that together is my full-time job, and I feel like I have the greatest job in the world because all these problems now feel more solvable due to our new agreements, leadership structure, committees, financial model, and most importantly, our joint commitment to solving these challenges together and in a coordinated manner.”

Do you have an idea on how to improve cancer care? Reach out to Wendy Mitsuyama at