“Lung Cancer Hero” credits team for national award
Published on Monday, September 26, 2022
By: Andrea Wright Dilworth, email@example.com
When Dr. Pierre de Delva, director of thoracic oncology and program director of thoracic surgery residency, flew to Chicago to accept a Lung Cancer Hero award Friday, he was honored and humbled, but said he didn’t act alone.
“The work being celebrated in the award belongs to our collaborative of individuals and organizations that have made the decision to work together to reduce the impact of lung cancer for Mississippians,” said de Delva, also professor and section chief of general thoracic surgery in the Department of Surgery.
“That group is coalescing into an organization called the Mississippi Lung Cancer Roundtable,” he said. “There are many lung cancer heroes in this group, and it is my privilege to lead them and accept the award in their name.”
Mississippi ranks third in the country for lung cancer deaths and fourth for new cases, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.
More people in the state die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. There were 13,422 new cases between 2015 and 2019, and 9,322 deaths.
Jennifer Myrick, senior manager of Cancer Support Strategic Partnerships for the American Cancer Society, worked with her colleagues to nominate de Delva for the award, presented to three recipients each year.
“When my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, there was no other surgeon than Pierre de Delva that I wanted to be on her medical team,” said Myrick. “I have worked with him for many years and have a tremendous amount of respect and trust in him. He was the first person we called when we got the diagnosis.”
Dianne Thomas, Myrick’s mother, who had never smoked and had no symptoms, was shocked when an annual checkup this year identified a spot on her chest X-ray that was diagnosed as Stage 1 lung cancer.
de Delva immediately put Thomas at ease.
“He was very easy to talk to, encouraging and thorough in explaining my diagnosis and treatment options,” said Thomas, who is retired.
Because doctors caught the cancer before it had not spread to any lymph nodes, de Delva was able to remove Thomas’ tumor, with no follow-up chemotherapy or radiation treatment needed.
“He helped save my life and I wanted to show my appreciation and support for all he has done for me and for all his patients.”
Thomas and Myrick showed their appreciation by flying to Chicago, too, to present de Delva his award.
“Medicine is full of challenges, but one thing does not change: The appreciation of a patient that you have helped is the ultimate reward for us,” de Delva said. “As a cancer surgeon, I enjoy developing strong relationships with patients based on our trust, patient empowerment in decision making, empathy and good results.
“To have my patient go through all the trouble to travel to Chicago to present this award and share this moment with me will be one of the highlights in my professional career.”
The Lung Cancer Hero awards are organized by CURE Magazine, the largest consumer magazine in the country focused solely on cancer. With a circulation of 285,000, it provides resources for patients, survivors and their caregivers.
“Dr. de Delva’s contributions to those underserved in the Mississippi area not only make an impact for patients and their loved ones, but it continues to make strides for the future of lung cancer care,” said Kristie Kahl, vice president of content for CURE Magazine.
The key elements of a comprehensive lung cancer control plan, de Delva said, are tobacco control and treatment, lung cancer screening, minimally invasive diagnostic and surgical treatments, and biomarker testing for personalized cancer care.
The Lung Cancer Hero award has fueled his motivation to continue fighting to save the lives of those diagnosed with lung cancer, he said.
“I hope it will shine a light on the devastating impact lung cancer has on Mississippians and all the work the Mississippi Lung Cancer Roundtable plans to do to decrease the number of patients that get and die of this disease. We know how to get this done.”
The other two recipients are Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami, Florida, and Alesha Arnold, a registered nurse in the clinical trials office at Indiana University Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center in Indianapolis.