Sep 23, 2019
As part of ASCO’s “I Live to Conquer CancerTM” Campaign to raise awareness of the critical importance of federally funded cancer research, members of the oncology community are invited to answer the question “Why do you live to conquer cancer?” Written stories and videos may be shared on ASCO.org and ASCO Connection. Tell us your story today.
As a young oncologist in Puerto Rico, Gladys Rodriguez, MD, witnessed firsthand how some patients with cancer were able to access high-quality care, while others were not. These inequities sparked her life-long passion to address cancer disparities and help make care available to everyone who needs it.
Now a medical oncologist and hematologist at the START Center for Cancer Care in San Antonio, Dr. Rodriguez continues to treat patients who face barriers to accessing care. Many of her patients live in small towns near the Texas-Mexico border, where there are very few oncologists. Those patients must travel long distances (in some cases, up to 200 miles) to receive treatment. Other patients struggle to afford the cost of cancer drugs, deductibles, and copays, or they face gaps in their insurance coverage.
To make care more accessible to patients living in San Antonio and surrounding areas, Dr. Rodriguez helped launch the Thrivewell Foundation, which provides financial assistance for a wide range of patient needs, including copays and transportation to appointments for people traveling long distances to undergo treatment. The foundation’s goal is to allow patients with cancer to live their lives as normally and worry-free as possible.
Over the course of her 35-year career, Dr. Rodriguez has also worked to educate underprivileged communities in San Antonio about cancer prevention and recent breakthroughs in cancer treatment, as well as to reduce the stigma that can accompany a cancer diagnosis.
Above all, Dr. Rodriguez believes is it her duty to provide the best possible care to her patients, no matter where they live or whether they can afford treatment. “If you are my patient, I will take care of you, and everything else we can figure out after,” said Dr. Rodriguez.