July, 2024
July 2024
Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez Honored as GRACE Patient Educator of the Year
Jun 9, 2024, 08:36

Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez Honored as GRACE Patient Educator of the Year

Estelamari Rodriguez, is the recipient of the Patient Educator of the Year award from Cancer GRACE.

The award was presented May 31 in Chicago in recognition of Rodriguez’s work in breaking down language barriers around the world by creating Spanish-language educational content about lung cancer for patients and caregivers.

As a physician and a Latina, Rodriguez, a bilingual thoracic oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Health System, has seen firsthand the ways that language barriers often prevent Spanish-speaking patients from receiving optimal care.

Since 2020, she has created Spanish-language video content and seminars for GRACE. She’s covered a wide range of lung cancer topics, including advances in targeted therapies and the newest research on biomarker testing, immunotherapy and emerging therapies. Her goal is to provide information that will help Spanish-speaking lung cancer patients communicate their concerns to health care providers and make better treatment decisions for themselves.

“It is a great honor to receive this award from the GRACE patient advocacy group. Educated patients are the best self-advocates,”Rodriguez said.

GRACE has presented the Patient Educator of the Year award annually since 2018. It recognizes an oncologist who has gone above and beyond in educating and empowering patients with cancer.

“We chose Dr. Rodriguez because she exemplifies our mission of providing accurate and reliable cancer education to patients and their advocates. She tries to participate in our recorded video libraries and live events as often as possible, and if she’s unable to work it into her schedule, then she will personally record a presentation on her own time and send it to GRACE for publication,” – said Maria Christian, GRACE Program Manager.

Rodriguez is a triple board-certified hematologist and oncologist who helped establish the multidisciplinary lung cancer care approach at Sylvester, South Florida’s only National Cancer Institute-designated center. The multidisciplinary approach incorporates clinicians from outside of oncology, creating a team that with patients from initial screening through diagnosis, treatment and support.

Rodriguez is also a driving force behind Sylvester’s lung cancer screening program and has a particular interest in treating malignant mesothelioma. With a Sylvester at Aventura office location, she treats patients from both Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Throughout her career, Rodriguez, who also holds a master’s degree in public health, has advocated for health equity. She is an active member of the ECOG/ACRIN Cancer Research Group Health Equity Committee and a mentor of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Virtual Diversity Mentoring Program for minority medical students and fellows. Her published research has included studying methods to reduce disparities in mesothelioma outcomes, particularly disparities related to social determinants of health, such as age, gender race and income.

Rodriguez uses her unique perspective as a Latina physician – only 2.4% of physicians in the U.S. are Latina – to improve outcomes and care for all of her patients.

“I have witnessed in my own family from Puerto Rico and in my medical training how our Spanish-speaking patients and caregivers are sometimes left out of the physician-patient conversation. Many patients in our Latinx community are receiving suboptimal care because of lack of access and education about treatment options, risks and benefits and alternative treatments,” – she said.

Rodriguez also noted that caregivers and family members often play an integral role as members of the treatment team for Hispanic patients, which is why she makes an extra effort to speak to them, as well as to patients, in her videos and seminars.

GRACE’s Christian praised the quality of Rodriguez’s content and her understanding of how to communicate to overwhelmed caregivers and patients – by being factual, professional and personable. Christian also underscored the importance of Rodriguez’s Spanish-language material, which, she noted, reaches “a vulnerable population that too often find a lack of materials when searching for information.”

Other posts featuring Estelamari Rodriguez on OncoDaily.