The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons granted the University of New Mexico Hospital Cancer Program a three-year Accreditation with Commendation. Established in 1922 by the American College of Surgeons, the Commission on Cancer accredits hospital cancer programs. It is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving survival rates and quality of life for cancer patients. The Commission on Cancer includes Fellows of the American College of Surgeons and 49 national organizations that reflect the full spectrum of cancer care.

The Commission on Cancer grants accreditation for one, two or three years under its program. Its 36 standards ensure that patients receiving care at an accredited facility will have access to a multidisciplinary team that coordinates the best treatment options; state-of-the art services and equipment; information about ongoing clinical trials and new treatment options; access to cancer-related information; and quality care close to home. The Commission on Cancer rigorously monitors each hospital's quality of care through monthly surveys, data requests or documentation reviews.

"The clinical component of the Cancer Program is accredited by the Commission on Cancer," explains UNM Cancer Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Lauer. "A minority of centers receive Commendation. We received a maximum three years' Accreditation with Commendation."

To receive Commendation, a cancer program must demonstrate a Commendation level of compliance in one or more of the standards while complying with all the other standards during a site evaluation by a physician surveyor. The UNM Hospital Cancer Program received commendation in four areas: quality criteria compliance, clinical trial accrual, prevention and early detection, and cancer-related quality improvements. The physician surveyor was particularly impressed with the Cancer Program's clinical trials accrual rates and active community outreach program.

"We reapplied for this accreditation to make sure that we continue to measure ourselves against national standards," says Donald Whitehead, UNM Cancer Center Chief Operating Officer.

Lauer chairs the Cancer Committee that administers the Cancer Program under the authority of the Medical Executive Committee of UNM Hospital. The Cancer Program includes inpatient care at UNM Hospital and outpatient care at the UNM Cancer Center Treatment and Research Facility. The Cancer Committee manages the myriad multidisciplinary teams within the Cancer Program.

"As an academic healthcare delivery system, we are able to coordinate several specialties seamlessly, sometimes without our patients even being aware of it," Lauer said. "This Accreditation with Commendation is a measure of the excellence of our Cancer Program and its commitment to the highest quality standards."