January

Jessica Greer, left, a perioperatiove nurse at UMMC Grenada, checks IV equipment to be used by Geraldine Hammons of Gore Springs, who's receiving an immunotherapy drug infusion to fight her cancer.
Jessica Greer, left, a perioperatiove nurse at UMMC Grenada, checks IV equipment to be used by Geraldine Hammons of Gore Springs, who's receiving an immunotherapy drug infusion to fight her cancer.
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UMMC Grenada cancer services offer options closer to home

Published on Monday, May 3, 2021

By: Ruth Cummins, ricummins@umc.edu

Geraldine Hammons has survived a brain tumor and breast cancer, so she’s taking her latest health challenge in stride.

The retiree and longtime Gore Springs resident has cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a rare cancer that begins in white blood cells, causing them to develop abnormalities and attack the skin. At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, she’s under the care of Dr. Carter Milner, a hematologist and associate professor of medicine; Dr. Jeremy Jackson, medical director for the Department of Dermatology; and Dr. Vince Herrin, a hematologist and professor of medicine.

That doesn’t mean all of Hammons’ treatment happens two hours down the road. She receives IV infusions of drugs to combat her newest cancer near home, at UMMC Grenada.

Gore Springs resident Geraldine Hammons is receiving regular immunotherapy drug infusions via IV at UMMC Grenada.
Hammons receives regular immunotherapy drug infusions via IV at UMMC Grenada.

“Gas has gone up so much. It costs $50 to go to Jackson and back,” Hammons said. “Being here for my infusions is wonderful. It’s so much easier and takes the stress off me. I only live 15 minutes away.

“My husband can’t drive after dark, and sometimes they keep me all day in Jackson. Here, I can be done by lunchtime.”

Hammons is one of a growing number of cancer patients receiving services close to home at UMMC Grenada. In conjunction with the UMMC Cancer Center and Research Institute, the Grenada hospital is extending its reach through its outpatient cancer care clinic, which opened in late 2019.

In July 2019, U.S. News and World Report gave the CCRI the distinction of High Performing in Adult Cancer, placing it in the top 10 percent of cancer centers nationwide. And the magazine named the CCRI the top cancer treatment facility in Mississippi in its 2020-21 Best Hospitals rankings for cancer care.

UMMC Grenada serves residents in Grenada and surrounding counties, drawing on resources from UMMC in Jackson to offer specialty services in that region that are hard to come by at smaller, rural hospitals.

The CCRI is part of Mississippi’s only academic medical center. Its interdisciplinary teams review each new patient’s cancer and recommend treatment. Having a cancer clinic presence at UMMC Grenada means patients can receive state-of-the-art care directed by a specialty team without having significant travel.

Carter Milner
Milner

“We see Mrs. Hammons once a month, but she can get her mid-monthly cycle of care in Grenada,” Milner said. “It’s top-notch. My patients adore the people who serve up there.”

Cancer services offered at UMMC Grenada, 960 JK Avent Drive, include:

  • A weekly clinic held by a UMMC medical oncologist.
  • Treatment options for each adult patient based on the type of cancer they have, other medical conditions and the patient’s wishes.
  • Infusion services, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy and therapies that include blood or rehydration infusions.
  • Regularly scheduled blood samples drawn at Grenada, with the results entered into the patient’s electronic medical record for doctors in Jackson to review.

It’s necessary for some procedures to be done in Jackson, such as complex surgeries, bone marrow transplants and certain chemotherapies or immunotherapies.

Dr. Dennis Morgan, a medical oncologist and assistant professor of medicine, and Dr. Louis Puneky, a medical oncologist and associate professor of medicine, alternate seeing patients at UMMC Grenada one day a week and are based primarily on the Jackson campus.

Linda Carter, a UMMC Grenada nurse practitioner, is the cancer services patient liaison. Those treated receive care from a broad team at the Grenada hospital, including pathology, oncology, hematology, surgery, interventional radiology, pain management, pharmacy and laboratory services.

Dennis Morgan
Morgan

“Linda is the backbone and the glue that keeps this together. She makes sure everyone gets what they need,” Morgan said. “It’s very easy for people to come to UMMC Grenada, get diagnosed, and get treated.

“We usually see from seven to 18 patients a week. It’s a real team effort,” he said. “There is always someone to take care of our patients if (Puneky) and I aren’t there. We are also available for inpatient consults.”

Cancer services are on the hospital’s third floor. “They stop on the first floor and get their labs done, and then they come to us. By the time they get to us, their labs are usually ready,” Morgan said.

When Hammons came to UMMC Grenada on April 14 for her twice-monthly infusion, registered nurse Jessica Greer was poised to begin her IV for administration of the immunotherapy drug mogamulizumab, commonly referred to as mogam.

“The treatments have gotten my blood numbers really good, but my skin is not that good yet,” Hammons explained as she reclined under a warm blanket in a comfy chair. “They say the skin takes longer to show improvement. I’ve had 20 infusions so far, and this treatment helps.”

Some infusions can last up to six hours, Carter said. “We offer meals from our cafeteria – breakfast and lunch,” she said. “For some people, that might be the best meal they have that day.”

Milner works closely with Greer and other UMMC Grenada providers to coordinate care of their patients, including married radiologists Dr. Tim Ragland and Dr. Katie Ragland. “I establish a treatment plan. We check their labs at Grenada,” Milner said. “I utilize Grenada as much as I can. There’s a personalized aspect to the care they give, and patients feel connected.”

“A lot of patients with cancer can’t walk very far,” Carter said. “Here, they can get in and get done, and they love that. Some patients say they like it here because when they get an infusion, there aren’t 50 other people getting one with them at the same time.”

UMMC Grenada’s cancer care services also help patients with their well-being, Milner said.

“Travel affects our quality of life,” she said. “To be able to go 15 minutes down the road and get treatment in a personalized way is very good for our patients.”

That’s important to Hammons. “It’s so much less stressful. My anxiety level can get pretty high,” she said. “I’m so comfortable here.”

For information about UMMC Grenada cancer care services, or to make an appointment, contact Carter at (662) 227-7354 or send her an email at lgcarter@umc.edu