Corinne Malanca's life was turned upside down when she found out her father's stage 4 lung cancer had spread to his brain. He had developed on an inoperable tumor. Her father was given weeks to live. Corinne immediately began researching further. She was shocked to stumble upon a statistic that revealed 40% of cancer patients died due to complications of malnutrition rather than cancer itself. While Corinne was reading this, dispensaries were opening across California. So Corinne and her husband, John, decided to ask an oncologist if she could give cannabis to her dad. The oncologist told her, "I don’t know anything about it but go ahead!” and then deemed Corinne her father's caregiver. Within 9 months after introducing cannabis her father went into remission. Today, 5 years later, he is 84 and just returned from a trip to Cabo with her mom. Inspired by her father's journey with cannabis, Corinne co-founded United Patients Group with her husband. UPG has become an unparalleled resource and trusted leader in Medical Cannabis for physicians, patients, and organizations. After experiencing first-hand the confusion and stress of navigating an overwhelming process, Corinne wanted to offer the support, guidance, and education to the world that she could not find. In addition to providing education globally in cannabinoid therapeutics, United Patients Group offers support to patients by helping them avoid the pitfalls of the medical cannabis industry while streamlining their process to the best available options along with orchestrating medical conferences on the science behind cannabis.
Can you tell us more about the journey leading up to launching United Patients Group?
I found myself in the cannabis industry by way of my father’s struggle with stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to his brain. He had a tumor on the brain stem…inoperable. After exhausting all conventional medicine, he was given weeks to live. We were desperate to make him comfortable. I jumped on the internet and stumbled on a statistic that read, “40% of cancer patients die of complications of malnutrition rather than cancer itself.” My father was wasting and on oxygen around the clock. At that time, dispensaries were popping up everywhere in California.
I knew that cannabis would give him the “munchies” so my husband asked the Kaiser Oncologist about cannabis and if we could give it to my dad. She said, “I don’t know anything about it but go ahead!” She deemed ME my father’s caregiver and we were sent out into the world to find this medicine on our own. It was scary, confusing, and overwhelming. We stumbled on a coconut oil capsule that was infused with cannabis plant matter. We only chose this because we knew we could freeze it and cut it into thirds. We gave my dad 1/3 every day. In 24 hours he was out of bed, in a week he put the oxygen tank in the closet.
Dad was on hospice care at the time. Hospice was always amazed at how my dad looked. They would shake their head and wonder why they were still coming to the house. Dad knew he was terminal so he was never going to get scanned again. That was fine with me, we simply celebrated every day that he was happy and comfortable. One evening, 9 months later, my mom called and said, “Check your email”. We pulled out the laptop to read what my mom had sent us…Dad had gotten scanned. The report read, “No evidence of recurrent disease.” This was the birth of United Patients Group. We knew we had to offer the support, guidance, and education to the world that we could not find. Our passion IS compassion.
What type of services does United Patients Group offer?
- United Patients Group has been offering Continued Medical Education since 2013. Our curriculum covers, Endocannabinoid Physiology, Pharmacology, Toxicology, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Palliative care, Formulations, Dosing and Potency, Laboratory testing – What you don’t know, Drug to Drug interactions, Oncology Neurology and so much more. All of our courses are recognized by the AMA. We have garnered a trusting and credible reputation within mainstream and Integrated medicine so much now that medical universities are partnering with us (United Patients Group) to bring our curriculum into their course offerings
- We realized in 2010 that there was no guidance for patients and their families. Cannabis as a medicine varies from patient to patient. This is not a one size fits all treatment so, in order to achieve the optimum dosing specific to a patient, we have a medical team that consults with patients and their families globally. We always encourage their physicians to be on the call to learn along the way.
- UPG offers a quarterly nurses training – CNE credits for nursing.
- We have a medical directory that showcases professionals who either treat patients with cannabis or are simply open taking patients who use cannabis.
- United Patient Group consults with organizations and product companies who are seeking guidance in shifting to the medical demographic. My husband John has a background in advertising, Marketing and Branding so this is in his wheelhouse.
- We consult with local, state and foreign governments to help them understand the needs of patients before laws are created that are inefficient.
- UPG has an International Ambassadors Program for those interested in joining our team.
- United Patient Group has advertising and marketing packages for those looking to gain visibility in the medical side of the industry.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
It’s the people! Many have found United Patients Group through either reading my dad’s story or our Medical Cannabis Symposiums.
It feels as though we have our own village or culture that spans the globe. We support these families through their most difficult time (and spend time on the phone crying with them) so we feel connected for life.
Any tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
That is the biggest challenge! Thank goodness I work with my husband or I would never see him! We are so blessed to have the same outlook, goals, and thresholds. We strive for balance but have come to realize that attaining balance every day may not be possible but we can get little reprieves throughout the week and weekend.
Sometimes we force ourselves NOT to go home after work. Many times we will head to a favorite restaurant around 5:30 to grab some appetizers. We like to choose a picture on our cell phone, a beautiful view, in a foreign country, prop it up on the table and pretend we are there. It sounds corny but we love how corny and charming that is. We really value the small things. All in all, we are committed to giving back and are already planning other ways to give back after United Patients Group.
How has cannabis influenced your life?
I was never a cannabis user past or present. I was the nerd in school and always the Designated Driver. I had no connection to cannabis until my father was given a death sentence. Then I became obsessed with research.
I am still obsessed! It is my goal to saturate the globe with education. This will remove the fear that so many have about this plant and in turn will pave a more positive path for future generations.
What has been your biggest challenge working in the cannabis industry?
My biggest challenge is the lack of comradery and support within this industry. The cannabis industry is different than any other industry. While we can have so many friends in the industry, in the end, it’s competitive - one must have a thick skin and a lot of energy to sustain a business.
Name the number one misconception people have when it comes to using cannabis for medicinal purposes
The biggest misconception is dosing. I see on the internet regularly, people advising others on what to take and in what quantity. The fact is, each patient is different based on their medical history, a current list of medications or supplements, age, weight, stage of disease and so much more.
Auto-immune conditions would be treated differently than cancers. Brain cancer requires a different formulation and dosing than Colon cancer. This is why we have a medical team that will speak to a patient for an hour to focus on what is best for that particular patient.
Why is education so important for the cannabis movement?
Education removes fear and in turn, I believe, will lead to more research. United Patient Group educates the public and the medical community. By doing this, the fear melts away, stigmas are removed, and a middle ground is created for better healthcare as a whole.
Any advice for patients who are interested in using cannabis?
Get medical guidance first! Don’t just go to a dispensary and ask the budtender. Most are not trained in the medical application of cannabis. We have had patients go to a dispensary in order to cut costs (forgoing the consult). They come out with a cannabis oil for their cancer, no guidance on dosing, along with a “new patient” freebee (Cookie or Brownie). The dangerous part of this is that sugar is the #1 fuel for cancer.
Secondly, the patient could also be a diabetic. Sugar would be an absolute no! The fact that opiates/pain killers have a reaction with cannabis is rarely discussed in a dispensary. If a patient comes in and asks for something for their pain, the first question should be, “Are you taking pain killers?” If they are, the patient needs to be advised that cannabis will increase the affects of the opiate and may result in an uncomfortable psychoactive affect.
What do you see in the future between cannabis and our current healthcare system?
I hope for a new and integrated system that includes cannabis. Integrated medicine should be a mainstay for all. There are so many successful modalities outside of conventional medicine and we should be freed to choose. It is a travesty that pharmaceuticals are covered by insurance but alternative medicines are rarely covered.
How can we bridge the gap between health care professionals and the cannabis community?
That is exactly what we have been doing since 2011, Education, Education, Education! We have been educating outside of the cannabis industry since 2011.
We have partnered with various medical universities like Cal Northstate University College of Medicine and Sonoma State University department of Nursing to set a precedence, a more forward-thinking approach to medicine and a higher standard of medical education as a whole.
If you could offer an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would say, combine your passion with a great amount of research. Create strategic partnerships but proceed with caution. The opportunities are great, be realistic and focus!