Five years of UI-quality cancer care offered closer to home for many

“It’s been five years and still it’s the best-kept secret,” said Shobha Chitneni, MD, clinical assistant professor. Chitneni is referring to the clinic where she practices, University of Iowa Health Care Cancer Services in the Quad Cities. Acquired by UI Health Care in 2017 from Chitneni and her partner oncologist, Mario Sy, MD, the location offers the same cutting-edge treatment and oncology teams found at UI Health Care in Iowa City, but in a convenient and accessible setting for people with cancer living in and around the Quad Cities. [Read our 2017 profile of Chitneni.]

Providers there hope to increase patient awareness about the clinic, improving their quality of life by saving them money, drive time, and the potential stress of parking and navigating the main campus in Iowa City. Even those patients outside the Quad Cities area may prefer the smaller size and ease of parking without losing any of the experience, knowledge, and dedication that comes from any member of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center (HCCC) in Iowa City.

Another medical oncologist at the Quad Cities facility, Jad El Masri, MD, clinical assistant professor, graduated from the University of Iowa’s internal medicine residency and hematology/oncology fellowship, and has been at this location for two years after joining the faculty in 2020. El Masri, who had the chance to work at the Quad Cities clinic during his fellowship, said, “This clinic was perfect because we are offering almost everything that we would offer at the university, but it’s closer to home for a lot of patients. That is why I decided to stay.”

El Masri reiterated that the clinic can save people a lot of time traveling to the university, but still get the same level of care and consultation. “If we have any questions that we would like to run by the university, we have access to the tumor boards, where medical oncologists such as myself, surgical oncologists, and radiation oncologists meet every week and discuss difficult cases. So even if they have a cancer that’s complicated or rare,” he said, the patient still has full access to all of the expertise at Iowa. “If there’s anything that they absolutely need to go to the university for, we would let them know, but basically, they’re getting tertiary level expertise in a community setting.”

Moreover, because of the clinic’s smaller size and focus, they are also adept at reducing patient wait time. “We know that a new diagnosis of cancer causes a lot of anxiety, so we try to see patients quickly after they give us a call.”

Although cancers make up the majority of what is treated at the clinic, El Masri pointed out that they also treat blood disorders. “We see breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer. But we also see hematology, blood problems, not necessarily blood cancers, like iron deficiency, vitamin 12 deficiency, sickle cell, that kind of thing.”

The Quad Cities cancer center also participates in clinical trials that are taking place at the HCCC. Chitneni said, “For every new patient we see, Katie, a research nurse, screens to see if there are any trials available that they would be eligible for. And she’s really good. If there is anything available, we’ll discuss it with the patients and then if it’s not available here and it’s available at the university, we let them know.”

Chitneni and Sy each talked about how the support gained by becoming part of UI has enhanced patient care since their private practice days. Some of the tangible changes include new infusion suites, a lab, and a draw station. All of which helps keep the patient closer to home and their visit burden smaller.

“I have been practicing medical oncology here at the Quad Cities since 2003,” Sy said, “and the community and its people have a special place in my heart. Being able to give something in return to the community – good cancer care – means a lot to me. Much more now with the University of Iowa along with the team that we have here, I feel that we are able to continue giving back and more of what this community needs: excellent cancer care with compassion and good support.”



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