Advancing Cancer Research

One of the biggest challenges in healthcare today is the disconnect between medical research and clinical care. There are a few reasons as to why this is the case. Firstly, not all community physicians are participants in research. This means that patients are not often referred to research studies, therefore researchers have less subjects. Additionally, as not all physicians are involved in research, physicians will less often adopt new research methods as do not fully understand them. So why is this separation such an issue? It leads to inefficiency in data collecting such as redundancies and limited access. The absence of a standard language or medium for medical information is a huge hurdle in the integration of medical research and clinical care. Overall, this disconnect hinders the speed and efficiency of scientists working to find solutions to medical problems. This problem is one that is being recognized more and more by doctors today.

The UC San Diego chapter at Pre-Meds Without Borders would like to honor Dr. Amy Abernethy, a hematologist/oncologist and palliative care physician. She received her MD from Duke University School of Medicine and her PhD in Medicine from Flinders University of South Australia. Dr. Abernethy used to be the Professor of Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine as well as the Director of the Duke Center for Learning Healthcare (CLHC) in the Duke Clinical Research Institute. She is also the director of the Duke Cancer Care Research Program and has had over 375 publications. Dr. Abernethy has been recognized as an international oncologist and has pioneered the development of technology platforms in cancer care.[3]

In 2014, she decided to take an absence from her duties at Duke University to focus on Oncological Research. She was appointed the new Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Oncology by Flatiron Health. Flatiron Health is a health technology company focused on improving cancer care by organizing the real-world’s oncology data and making it useful for patients, clinicians, physicians, and researchers. Dr. Abernethy will help Flatiron in many ways. As an expert in this field of study, she will be able to provide necessary data that enables the right patient to the get the right therapy at the right time.

“We are at a critical crossroads in cancer care… Cancer data science has the potential to improve the lives of countless patients and families.[4] But we still need to develop strategic and operational pathways. Flatiron Health has the vision and ingenuity needed to revolutionize cancer care, and I’m excited to be a member of the team working to solve this puzzle.”

Dr. Abernethy will continue to work with cancer care providers, life science companies, and data partners in order to obtain practical data to solve analytic problems. As the head of the clinical and oncology data teams, she will continue the visions of Flatiron Health.[4]

Clinically, Dr. Abernethy was previously responsible for the care of patients with melanoma, in conjunction with the surgeons and radiation oncologists of the Duke Melanoma Clinic. She is a principal investigator on major international studies for metastatic melanoma, and has published work in areas pertinent to the epidemiology of melanoma, longitudinal care patterns, and improving the melanoma patient experience. Dr. Abernethy also previously attended on Duke’s palliative care service, with special focus on improving the quality of life for people affected by advanced cancer including their families. Dr. Abernethy participates integrally in current high-level national and international discussions about reforming the evidence development system, presenting a model for a rapid learning healthcare that coordinates clinical and research functions to better serve patients’ needs in an evidence-driven, cost-effective, and patient-centered manner.[1] She is interested in making data collection within the healthcare system more efficient, and in giving all parties equal access to the data collected.


[1] “Amy Abernethy.” TEDMED. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

[2] “Amy P. Abernethy, MD PhD.” National Center for Women & Information Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

[3] “Amy Pickar Abernethy, MD.” Amy Pickar Abernethy, MD. ‘Duke University School of Medicine, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

[4] “Flatiron.” Flatiron. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

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