Cancer Support Community Names Courtney Yohe Savage as Senior Vice President, Policy and Advocacy
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 28, 2022 — The Cancer Support Community (CSC), the world’s largest provider of cancer support with a network of 190 locations across the United States and Canada, announced today that Courtney Yohe Savage, MPP, will serve as its next Senior Vice President, Policy and Advocacy, starting November 15, 2022. Yohe is excited to join CSC and turn her focus to patient advocacy.
A recognized strategic leader and policy expert, Yohe has over 20 years of experience in health policy, advocacy, and government relations. Most recently, she served as Vice President, Government Relations, at The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), a not-for-profit organization representing surgeons, researchers, and healthcare professionals around the world who work towards the best possible outcomes for surgical procedures within the chest, including the heart, lungs, and esophagus. There, she transformed a nascent advocacy agenda into a flourishing advocacy program. In her role, Yohe represented STS in meetings with government agencies, congressional offices, and other medical societies. She was also instrumental in helping build a diverse coalition of stakeholders to work with elected officials on parts of the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation designed “to help accelerate medical product development and bring new innovations and advances to patients who need them faster and more efficiently.” In addition, she worked in support of the PACT Act, a new law that expands VA healthcare and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances.
With experience ranging from FDA approvals to insurance coverage decisions and authorizations, Yohe is very familiar with the red tape that can keep patients from accessing the care they need. Working for providers who boast large and robust clinical data registries measuring care quality, she saw how these delays could ultimately impact patient experiences and outcomes. For these reasons, she has worked to ensure that physician Medicare payment can be directly linked to patient outcomes and other meaningful quality measures — making sure that healthcare providers have the resources, information, and incentives they need to provide the highest quality care. Yohe successfully negotiated the inclusion of clinical data and STS‐created quality measures in the Bundled Payment for Care Improvement Advanced, making thoracic surgery one of only a few specialties that has access to a relevant alternative payment model in the Medicare quality payment program.
“I am thrilled to welcome Courtney to CSC,” said CSC CEO Debbie Weir. “From working on Capitol Hill to building broad-based coalitions and negotiating complex rules and regulations with the FDA, Courtney’s deep experience in Washington has prepared her well to tackle the wide range of policy matters impacting people living with cancer. I am particularly excited to work with Courtney on ensuring equitable access to modern and novel treatment options for all cancer patients.”
Yohe is no stranger to the stigma and challenges that can come with a cancer diagnosis. A significant number of STS members care for lung and esophageal cancer patients, and Yohe worked on expanding access to lung cancer screenings with low-dose computed tomography. She also has personal connections with cancer: her grandfather was diagnosed with bladder cancer when she was young, and her sister is a pediatric oncologist.
“My grandfather was lost, scared, vulnerable, and not accustomed to asking for help,” she recalled. Facing living with an ostomy bag, he was encouraged by his nurse to reach out to others who had a similar experience. “That connection was essential to his recovery,” added Yohe. Her grandfather went on to live to his 96th year. With that experience in mind, she understands the important role the Cancer Support Community and its free services play in the lives of people impacted by cancer.
Yohe is passionate about including the patient experience in the definition of quality in healthcare. “Policymakers are focused on demonstrating ‘value’ in the healthcare system as a product of quality over cost,” she said, “but they don’t yet have a good understanding of what ‘quality’ care means to patients and caregivers; all they see is skyrocketing healthcare costs.” She looks forward to using her understanding of hospital and payment systems to advocate for and help develop policies that support quality patient care in a way that makes sense to patients. Yohe is also eager to connect with and grow CSC’s Grassroots Network, helping to amplify the voices of impacted people and inspire change that improves the cancer experience for patients, survivors, caregivers, and their loved ones. “CSC advocates have incredible stories to tell. My job is to open the right doors and make sure that those voices are heard by the right people,” said Yohe.
Yohe expects her tenure to begin with a lot of listening to patients and caregivers and to her new colleagues in research, programs, and service delivery. “I’m eager to learn more about all the amazing work CSC is doing at both the national and local levels. I’m so excited to be coming to a patient advocacy group where I can draw a direct line between the work that I’m doing and improving patients’ and caregivers’ lives. I already have a list of things I want to do and relationships I want to initiate once I officially begin,” said Yohe.
Weir said, “I know Courtney brings a personal passion and commitment to this work, and I have no doubt that she will be successful in amplifying the voice of cancer patients and their caregivers in the Nation’s Capital and across the country.”