Nearly 2 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Cancer severely impacts the lives of patients and their families, yet underserved populations often face additional barriers in battling this disease. Some communities do not always have equitable access to quality health care.
The challenge is even greater when a patient is battling an uncommon type of cancer, such as multiple myeloma. We at the Hope and Innovation Oncology Institute take pride in providing the highest level of cancer care and treatment for underserved populations. Omkar Marathe, MD, medical director of clinical trials at the institute, believes health equity should be essential in oncology. In addition to her duties as Medical Director, Marathe sees patients at his clinic in Long Beach, CA.
Marathe’s motivation to become an oncologist began when he was 4 years old when his grandfather passed away from multiple myeloma. At the time, multiple myeloma patients did not live long after diagnosis. Yet, thanks to heroes like Marathe, patients today live longer and their symptoms are managed, improving their quality of life.
A native of Southern California, Marathe received her BS (Honours) in Neuroscience from UCLA and her MD from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He then trained in internal medicine at Scripps Green Hospital, followed by a hematology/oncology fellowship in the Olive View/Cedars Sinai program at UCLA. In addition, he achieved perfect marks in his oncology training exams and has been honored for publications and research in different areas of oncology, including HER2-positive breast cancer and ocular melanoma.
Marathe is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Society of Hematology. Kev’s Best, a blog that rates businesses by various criteria, recently named Marathe one of the five best oncologists in Long Beach.
Health organizations affiliated with large academic institutions such as UCLA and Stanford have traditionally conducted trials with participants living near major metropolitan areas. Marathe is bringing these trials to Institute of Oncology clinics in communities that are accessible to underserved communities. He does about 10 to 15 trials at a time.
He enrolled 25 multiple myeloma patients in the trial, most of whom were from underserved communities. Nationwide, only 10 percent of patients enrolled in clinical trials come from underserved communities. Under Marathe’s leadership, between 40 and 50 percent of clinical trial participants at The Oncology Institute were economically disadvantaged immigrants who did not speak English. Marathe believes that increasing access to these trials, especially in these communities, is key to overcoming health inequities.
Pharmaceutical companies working with Marathe also see benefits in testing new treatments on patients from different backgrounds. They want to assess the effectiveness of proposed treatments in the U.S. general population, which is very diverse.
It is often difficult to make your first appointment with an oncologist. However, Marathe prioritizes making sure first-time patients see him within a week or two of their appointment. He has a genuine love of serving the Long Beach, CA community. As many as 60 percent of his patients are Medicaid recipients who live locally.
He prioritizes developing a deep personal connection with each patient by emphasizing clear communication and education while considering the patient’s unique personal story and cultural heritage. It also helps that he is fluent in Spanish and Hindu and can communicate directly with his patients.
Colleagues and patients recognize Marathe as a hero for breaking down barriers to oncology care for the underserved.
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