July Advocate Spotlight: Dr. Stephen B. Edge
Each month, the Cancer Policy Institute profiles advocates who have been engaged in cancer advocacy. Read on to learn more about Stephen B. Edge, MD, FACS, FASCO, including his work as a surgical oncologist and his passion for assuring that every person with cancer gets quality care.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got connected with the Cancer Support Community.
I am a surgical oncologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, a NationaI Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Buffalo, NY. I led the breast cancer program for over 20 years. Now I am involved as the VP for quality evaluation for our network, do health services research, and still practice breast cancer medicine.
I got involved with the Cancer Support Community through my work with the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). As the chair of the CoC, I felt it important to have a broad range of advocacy groups become full participating members of the CoC. The CoC has its roots with the American Cancer Society, a very long-standing, patient-centered group. With the growth and increasing broad level of expertise among advocacy organizations, I felt the CoC needed more diversity. I believe my strongest achievement as CoC chair was to successfully advocate to get 3 national advocacy groups — the Cancer Support Community being one of them — on the CoC as full members. Their input at the table has been invaluable to the CoC for the last 12 years.
"Go to your passion, and then just do it. Start down the road of advocating at all levels; engage and learn from others."
Did you have experience with advocacy in any capacity before joining CSC?
From the early days of my training, I was taught that every cancer doctor needed to advocate for improved care and access to care. Back then, that meant volunteering for the American Cancer Society. I was involved with the ACS as a volunteer, speaker, local board member, and general rabble rouser. Coming to Roswell Park in 1992 to lead the breast program, this work focused on breast cancer. We worked with advocates in our region and across New York on key issues related to mammography screening; availability of services such as lymphedema, reconstruction, and others; and, of course, access to care overall. Locally, we built our program around patient support. I developed one of the early patient resource centers built directly into the breast center. We hired a terrific leader for that program who helped countless women in the area, regardless of where they received their care.
Now I work advocating for access and community health through the Population Health Collaborative, a community wide group in Buffalo focused on access for all. And of course, I try to help with the Cancer Support Community.
Is there one issue you are particularly passionate about?
Assuring every person with cancer gets quality care. This starts at the personal level with my direct support of the people who come to me for their care. And then to the programs we support in our center. [It also includes] developing the best standards to help people and their doctors know the optimal care for each person’s situation, and supporting and advocating for access for all people across my community and the nation.
"The progress every day may be hard to see, but look back after a year, a decade, a career — it’s amazing what you can contribute."
What is one tip or piece of advice you’d like to share with others who are interested in becoming an advocate?
Go to your passion, and then just do it. Start down the road of advocating at all levels; engage and learn from others. The progress every day may be hard to see, but look back after a year, a decade, a career — it’s amazing what you can contribute and [do to] affect meaningful change.
Tell us something fun about yourself — any hobbies, interests, or fun facts?
My wife is a doer — everything she does she does to the extreme. She's a role model. Even with severe rheumatoid arthritis and a deformed hand from immunocompromised infections, she’s a biking champion: U.S. Masters Cycling Champion in 2007; World Masters Cycling silver-medal winner in 2019. And she makes me bike — we ride tandem. I always beat her by 2 feet ’cause I’m in front!
Me, I’m a singer. After a 40-year hiatus, I started singing seriously 6 years ago. I sing in the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, the top church choir in Buffalo, and have done a number of voice recitals. I’m singing a Bach cantata for solo bass, oboe, and strings this winter. I will have my professional operatic debut this fall with small but named roles in “Susannah,” a contemporary American opera, and Bizet’s “Carmen.”