A new partnership between The Texas A&M University Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health (SRPH) and the Texas Department of State Health Services will benefit Texans in the Rio Grande Valley as well as Texas cancer researchers. SRPH and the department will establish a pilot cancer registry program in the Rio Grande Valley to improve the completeness and quality of cancer reporting in South Texas.
The school recently hired two employees, Miriam Robles and Sharon Garcia, to work at the HSC’s South Texas Center in McAllen, where the registry will be housed. Robles and Garcia will monitor data reporting, provide quality validation checks and train facilities on how to report data better. Dr. Nancy Weiss is the manager of the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Cancer Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, where the Texas Cancer Registry is housed.
Registries more clearly identify the extent of health problems in a given area, giving a better idea of how to address and identify an issue. A robust registry for diseases such as cancer can be important in tracking as well as treatment. Texas’ registry faces difficulty in cancer reporting, particularly from small rural hospitals. The Rio Grande Valley border region is one such place.
The location of the pilot program is one of two new features of this partnership. The other is the link with academic institutions. SRPH was one of the first to partner with the Texas Cancer Registry, along with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The partnership now includes other schools of public health in Texas. Academic partners enhance the capacity of the Texas Cancer Registry, particularly in an environment of cost restraints.
The North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) is the body that provides certification on the completeness of data. It reviews registries for the ability to produce complete, accurate and timely data and awards them gold or silver certification. The Texas registry is aiming for gold certification, something not yet achieved in part due to a lack of completeness of data. One of the main reasons the cancer registry has not yet received the gold standard award is due to underreporting of cancer cases in some areas of the state, said Susan Carozza, Ph.D., principal investigator of the project and a cancer epidemiologist at SRPH.
“This project in partnership with the Texas Department of State Health Services fits the School’s mission to improve the health of communities, particularly rural and underserved populations,” said SRPH Dean Ciro V. Sumaya, M.D., M.P.H.T.M. “The work that the cancer registry employees will perform in the Valley primarily addresses rural communities,” he said.

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