Ted Okon sheds light on the ACO committee responsible for acting on humanitarian crises

While the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) was involved in humanitarian work in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the crisis in Ukraine led the COA to set up a special committee to take action, said Ted Okon , MBA, Executive Director of the COA.


COA recently launched a committee to act on humanitarian causes, such as addressing the special needs of cancer patients due to the war in Ukraine. What are the specific successes of this effort?

Many years ago when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, because we have such good ties with Puerto Rico – I spoke there every year except until COVID-19, to oncologists there – l island was devastated. And we had to take action, and we did. We started by getting solar phones to be able to communicate. And then we worked with CancerCare, the relief organization, to basically provide transportation and stipends for patients to continue to receive their cancer care, as well as to keep surgeries open.

We have learned that we can have an impact. And even though there have been other crises since then, I think Ukraine really opened our eyes to the need for a standing committee. So COA did 2 things. First, we have established a permanent committee, and this committee is supposed to deal with other crises. Frankly, should we have addressed the crisis in Syria? Yes, but these things happen, you don’t realize it, and so now we have a better appreciation. But because what was happening in Ukraine was so bad, we said we basically had to help.

So we set up a web page. We worked with 4 different humanitarian organizations that are medical, their focus is medicine, and COA started by donating $10,000 to each. And I know that I have personally done it, as well as others. And it’s not meant to be a unique thing about Ukraine. It’s basically having a committee, so that when the next crisis hits, we do something about it. It just can’t be about going about our normal business. We have to look much wider than ourselves.

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