The Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Health System: Treating People, Not Numbers

Intervention Area: Atlanta Metro Area

ATLANTA – The health care system is complex and often very fragmented. Navigating these increasingly advanced structures requires an expert guide. Patient navigators make sure that patients are getting all the care they need, when they need it most. They assist in setting up appointments, making sure patients have all documentation needed to move forward; they follow patients throughout treatment and assist in creating a survivorship care plan; they provide crucial psychological support through the most distressing phases of cancer treatment. The work of patient navigators is especially vital for underserved and vulnerable populations, who often lack a formal support system and may be overwhelmed by the highly technical nature of modern health care facilities.

The Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence (GCCE) has offered a patient navigator program since 2003, designed exclusively for breast cancer patients and facilitated by lay navigators who are breast cancer survivors themselves. GCCE also has a robust partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS), which provides a dedicated, full-time patient resource navigator and a part-time client navigator to work with patients across all cancer sites. Thanks to support from the Merck foundation, GCCE has since been able to expand their navigator program, developing a protocol to match newly diagnosed patients with a nurse navigator. Patients are connected to a navigator as soon as they receive test results that indicate a suspicious or positive result. The nurse navigation program focuses on areas with the highest number of patients, lung/thoracic and breast/gynecology, however navigation services are available to all cancer patients.

Facts and Figures

  • More than 80% of Grady Health patients are African-American/Black
  • In 2016, 29% of patients were uninsured, 29% were on Medicaid, and 23% were on Medicare
  • Compared to National Cancer Database data (2013), patients at Grady are 56% more likely to receive a stage IV (advanced) cancer diagnosis.
  • Compared to National Cancer Database data (2013), patients at Grady are younger than the national average when they receive their cancer diagnosis.

About the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence (GCCE)

The Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence (GCCE) at Grady Health System was established by the Georgia Cancer Coalition as part of an initiative to build a statewide network of exceptional cancer care for all Georgians. The state of the art facility provides highly attentive care to cancer patients and their families. The facility also houses the Avon Breast Health Center.

The GCCE is part of Grady Memorial Hospital, a public academic medical center that serves as a safety-net hospital. It is located in Atlanta Georgia. Safety net hospitals deliver care to the uninsured, patients on Medicaid, and other vulnerable populations, offering access regardless of their ability to pay. Grady Health System includes the Grady Memorial Hospital, a Level 1 Trauma Center and Burn Center.

About the Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care

The Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care, a multi-site initiative funded by the Merck Foundation, works to increase timely access to patient-centered care and reduce health disparities among under-served populations in the United States. The Alliance includes the following organizations: Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Health System, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, The University of Arizona Cancer Center, and University of Michigan School of Nursing, which serves as the National Program Office (NPO). For more information, visit the Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care’s website at

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