Szczepanek Receives National ASCO ‘Partners in Progress’ Award
Recognized for cancer clinical trials work
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., July 8, 2019 – Connie Szczepanek, R.N., B.S.N., C.C.R.P., research director, Spectrum Health, and director of the Cancer Research Consortium of West Michigan (CRCWM), has received American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Partners in Progress Award. She was presented with the award on June 2 during the Annual ASCO meeting in Chicago.
The Partners in Progress Award recognizes a person involved in patient advocacy activities that impact public awareness about cancer, its causes, cures, or treatment or activities that result in additional support either legislatively or fiscally for cancer research, treatment, prevention or care.
“Our goal has always been to reduce barriers to clinical trials so that every member of the community can access state-of-the-art cancer clinical trials where they live,” said Szczepanek. “This has been very fulfilling work because of the positive impact made on behalf of patients and their families.”
Szczepanek began her career as a nurse in 1979 at Butterworth Hospital, which is now a part of Spectrum Health. She became involved in cancer prevention research in 1992 after losing her sister to breast cancer and has been active in the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial and STAR trial, as well as numerous community, state, and national initiatives to facilitate cancer awareness and clinical trials education.
Originally called the Grand Rapids Clinical Oncology Program (GRCOP), the organization was formed in 1975 to develop community cancer management guidelines. By 1983, the group had changed its focus to clinical trials research, becoming one of the first participants in the National Cancer Institute’s Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), designed to offer national clinical trials through a community-based clinical research program.
In 2014, GRCOP changed its name to the Cancer Research Consortium of West Michigan. The program typically has 120 new trials open, with an additional 250 trials ongoing. The trials are distributed among the consortium’s 11 member hospitals and health care systems, including Spectrum Health.
Szczepanek has served as director of GRCOP, now CRCWM, since 1999. Her significant achievements include creating a local patient advisory council and leading a national ASCO Community Research Forum workgroup, in partnership with NCI and other researchers, which resulted in process and practice changes that reduce the clinical trials billing burden for research sites and ultimately for the patients they serve.
Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system that provides care and coverage, comprising 31,000+ team members, 14 hospitals (including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital), a robust network of care facilities, teams of nationally recognized doctors and providers, and the nation’s third-largest provider-sponsored health plan, Priority Health, currently serving over 1 million members across the state of Michigan. People are at the heart of everything we do. Locally governed and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we are focused on our mission: to improve health, inspire hope and save lives. Spectrum Health has a legacy of strong community partnerships, philanthropy and transparency. Through experience, innovation and collaboration, we are reimagining a better, more equitable model of health and wellness.