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VCU Massey Cancer Center


Rural Cancer Outreach Program


The mission of VCU Massey Cancer Center's Rural Outreach Program is to provide state-of-the-art oncology care in areas of rural Virginia identified by high cancer rates and with limited resources and poor access to oncology care.


The Rural Cancer Outreach Program was founded in response to the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Control Initiative.

In 1988, Massey’s cancer researchers determined that people living in rural areas of Virginia did not have adequate access to oncology care. Cancer deaths were much higher than national averages in these areas. Rather than require these patients to travel to VCU Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, the Rural Outreach Program partnered with various community hospitals in several areas throughout the state.

Today, the program staffs a clinic at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center in Emporia, Virginia. This hospital serves a rural population of about 50,000 that is distinguished by a shortage of health care providers and a high proportion of elderly and minority patients.


One or two oncologists and one nurse travel once per week from Massey to the community hospital. These oncologists and nurses evaluate patients with new diagnoses of cancer, provide follow-up to patients on treatment, make referrals for radiation therapy where appropriate and consult with local physicians about the care of their patients.

The Rural Cancer Outreach Program is led by:
Mary Helen Hackney, M.D., director
(804) 628-1933

Massey outreach staff at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center include:

  • Site coordinator, Kevin Brigle, Ph.D., ANP, (804) 628-1934
  • Haidee Waters, Ph.D., ANP, (804) 628-1931
  • E. Brent Perkins, M.D., (804) 828-9723

This program is designed to enable the primary doctors to care for their patients when the outreach doctors are back in Richmond. The outreach clinic operates daily, administering chemotherapy, transfusions and monitoring pain under the supervision of the local physicians and nurses.


The goals of the program are to provide as much care as possible within the rural community; teach physicians and nurses living and serving in these rural communities about the care of cancer patients; bring technologically advanced treatment in the form of NCI-approved protocols; and devise a system that can be generalized to other rural areas.

Success of the program is evident in the following outcomes:

  • Breast conservation rate at one of the rural clinics reached 70 percent, twice the national average, a year after the program started.
  • 10 percent of patients at each site are registered in NCI clinical trials, whereas previously there were none.
  • Results have shown that treating patients in rural settings is less expensive than in urban settings.

Funding support

The Rural Cancer Outreach Program has been supported since its inception by a combination of public funds granted by the Virginia General Assembly and by private donations.

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