NORFOLK, Va. – Dr. Moussa Sissoko’s decision to go into medicine was driven largely by his experience growing up in West Africa, overcoming polio as a child and seeing firsthand the disparities that exist in healthcare.
“Where I grew up, you will see many people afflicted with polio like me, or other diseases like blindness, who were of my age sitting in the street and it never set up well with me, so I always told myself I’d like to do science to understand this and try to help and do something.”
Sissoko said his life work as an oncologist has always been to help bridge the gap in the quality of healthcare across racial and ethnic groups and create a more equitable way to treat those in underserved communities.
Now, he and his team at Bon Secours Medical Oncology in Norfolk will be able to help address the high rates of breast cancer disparities between Black and white Americans.
Despite improvements in early detection and treatment, Black women continue to have the highest breast cancer mortality rate in the U.S.
“In 2021 still, the African American woman, the Black women in general are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer compared to counterpart Caucasian, which is really unquestionable,” Sissoko said.
The practice is one of only eight oncology practices across the country that has been selected to participate in the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) “Bringing Quality Care Training to Komen’s African-American Health Equity Initiative.”
The health equity initiative will identify and break down barriers to access care, such as lack of transportation, education and money.
“Unfortunately, people will have to choose between going to see the doctor or having something to put on the table, which breaks my heart,” said Sissoko.
The three-year program will allow Bon Secours to participate in the continuum of quality improvement initiatives the Society and the Associate for Clinical Oncology has to offer, beginning with a site assessment and report to improve cancer care delivery.
During the first six months of the program, Dr. Sissoko will lead the Bon Secours team to achieve specific goals to reduce “missed or canceled appointments.” Bon Secours plans to look at its clinic appointments process; patient surveys to get their perspectives as to why they missed or canceled an appointment; and data analysis of parameters such as age, comorbidities, type of insurance, distance from home to clinic, etc. that might be contributing to this via regression analysis.
“This ASCO program that we were selected, is to allow us to participate in this equity quality improvement program to help improve our practice to increase equity in our practice and make sure we have more African Americans who when they come to us, they have the same type of care and the same type of opportunity as their counterpart Caucasian,” Sissoko said.
The health equity initiative will ensure everyone is getting the best care possible, no matter the color of skin.
“For Black Americans to have at least an institution, to have a place where their specific issues are addressed,” Sissoko said. “When you come as a Black American, you’ll find a institution where people are really here to address your specific issue, whether it is poverty, and not look on the skin color but look beyond the skin color just as a human being in general.”