UF Prostate Disease Center leads charge for new state prostate disease program

Johannes Vieweg, M.D., executive director of the UF Prostate Disease Center and Thomas Crawford, M.B.A., the chief operating officer of the UF Prostate Disease Center. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

In Florida, one in four men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer — more than the national average — and black men are nearly three times more likely than white men to die from the disease, according to experts from the University of Florida department of urology and Prostate Disease Center.

But new legislation that took effect in July aims to change these statistics with the establishment of a state of Florida Prostate Cancer Awareness Program, coordinated through the UF Prostate Disease Center. The program will bring together experts and leaders from across the state to tackle prostate cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the state, according to the Department of Health.

“Prostate cancer is a complex disease requiring a multidisciplinary approach,” said Johannes Vieweg, M.D., executive director of the UF Prostate Disease Center, who led the efforts to get the bill passed and establish the program. “It is a hidden disease no one wants to talk about. This is the No. 1 cancer in men throughout the nation, and our efforts will impact not only Floridians, but patients in adjacent states as well. This bill holds great potential to develop a national precedent for how prostate cancer care, education and research will be conducted in this country.”

Vieweg rallied UF leaders and began lobbying for a bill to establish the statewide program. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on May 31 and it took effect July 1. David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System, and Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine, support the program’s ambitious goals.

“This program will bring the expertise and resources from the UF Prostate Disease Center together with key experts and advocates from across the state,” Good said. “Collaborations like these are crucial to making significant progress in the fight against prostate disease.”

As part of this new program, Vieweg established a Prostate Cancer Advisory Council, which includes partners from the Mayo Clinic, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, the American Cancer Society and the University of Miami, among others. Physicians, researchers, advocates, survivors and other prostate disease and cancer leaders comprise the group, which will hold its inaugural meeting in September in Orlando.

“We sought to build a platform on which to gather a collaborative group of experts from multiple institutions across Florida,” said Thomas Crawford, M.B.A., the chief operating officer of the UF Prostate Disease Center.

The council’s initial goals will be to develop both an action plan to improve prostate cancer awareness, outreach, education and care for Florida, and build a list of recommendations for the Legislature. This work will be detailed in an annual report and presented to state leaders in January. In addition to developing tools to educate the public about prostate cancer, treatment and research, leaders also aim to work on communicating best practices for physicians. Council members will begin by examining current available resources and analyzing gaps in awareness, treatment and research efforts.

“This is part of our mission,” Vieweg said. “It is good for patients, and it is of great benefit to the state.”