Understanding and enhancing communication practices and culturally aware patient-centered care for pediatric oncology patients.
I use qualitative and quantitative methods to study the interactions between patients, families and their healthcare teams to understand how those exchanges impact cancer care. I also study communication within multidisciplinary teams and conduct research focusing on how culture impacts clinical care for pediatric patients in global settings. Additionally, I am interested in how to decrease disparities seen in pediatric cancer care.
Clear communication is a necessary skill that plays a pivotal role in high quality, patient-centered care. However, communication training is not widespread for many pediatric oncology clinicians, specifically in global settings, and the communication needs of patients and families in these settings are understudied. My research focuses on understanding and improving communication practices and providing care that is family-centered, culturally aware and resource sensitive.
The communication between clinician, patient and the patient’s family is an integral part of high-quality care. Historically, studies on this type of communication have focused on the palliative setting. My work is centered on developing and utilizing quality metrics to study communication strategies from the initial diagnosis onward. This allows for a better understanding of factors that may play a role in treatment acceptance.
Social and community aspects to care
The impact of stigma on childhood cancer and its treatments has not been comprehensively assessed. Since stigma can affect cancer care decision making, it is important to measure and assess stigma so that appropriate interventions, such as community awareness campaigns and focused clinical resources, can be implemented. My work has studied childhood cancer-associated stigma in Zimbabwe, Jordan and Guatemala. The data obtained from these studies are being used to develop a quantitative way to assess stigma worldwide.
Many children with cancer require multidisciplinary teams to implement treatment plans. How these teams communicate is important for high quality care. I study the dynamics of interdisciplinary oncology team communication. This work has led to the development a quantitative tool capable of measuring, and ultimately improving, the quality of inpatient team communication.
Certain patient populations are less likely to enroll in clinical trials. I am examining implicit bias among pediatric oncologists to determine whether implicit bias, if present, affects clinical trial enrollment. Additionally, I am also identifying caregiver-associated impediments to enrollment.
Dr. Graetz is a pediatric oncologist who received her MD from the University of Connecticut. She also completed a residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and fellowships in hematology/oncology and global health at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Dr. Graetz also received a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Connecticut. As an Assistant Member of the St. Jude Faculty and Director of Culture and Communication, Dr. Graetz is interested in assessing and improving communication strategies to optimize patient-centered care.