LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A diagnosis of cancer often will send a patient into a spiral of depression, pain and hopelessness. The University of Louisville hopes to prevent that from happening through the establishment of the Dr. Renato LaRocca Endowed Chair in Oncology Social Work.
“We don’t know of another program in the nation that focuses on cancer patients; we want to fill that void,” said Terry Singer, dean of the Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work at UofL. “Through this chair, we will create a state-of-the-art training and research program targeted at this very vulnerable population.”
Local cancer medicine specialist Dr. Renato LaRocca recognized the need for helping his patients navigating their way through the maze of emotions and health care systems associated with a cancer diagnosis. The result was his leading the effort to establish the nation’s first known endowed chair in oncology social work.
“A cancer diagnosis immediately impacts patients and generates a tremendous amount of emotional and technical needs,” LaRocca said. “I don’t know of any formal program in the United States, let alone the world, that researches the topic or that specifically educates and trains social workers in this arena. There is a tremendous need in our community and beyond and I can’t think of a better place than UofL to lead the way in this new specialty area.”
Oncology social workers serve as patient advocates, providing answers, guidance and support. They connect cancer patients and their families to community resources, including physicians, financial aid, local and government agencies and support groups.
The LaRocca Chair is part of the state’s Bucks for Brains program, where the state provides funds matched by private donations. This chair marks the first in the Kent School.
“At UofL, we strive to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Dr. James R. Ramsey, president of the university. “One way to accomplish this goal is to bring the best possible people to Louisville to examine the problems people face in their lives. Dr. LaRocca’s gift and Dean Singer’s leadership in establishing this program demonstrate how we work daily to improve the lives of people in Louisville, Kentucky, and beyond.”