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GSH Cared About Me as a Person

When he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003, Johnny Barlow knew he would need quality care. Fortunately, one of the best cancer centers in the nation was just a few miles from his home in Dayton. The Samaritan Cancer Center has won national acclaim for its compassionate and progressive multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer. In 2005, it was one of only 40 cancer centers in the United States—and the only center in Dayton—to win the Commission on Cancer’s outstanding achievement award.

It wasn’t just the high quality of care Mr. Barlow received that impressed him. It was the personal nature of the caregivers. “From the first time I walked in the door and they greeted me by name, I knew they really cared about me as a person,” he says.

Staying on Top of Treatment

The Samaritan Cancer Center’s disease management philosophy spans the entire continuum of care: prevention, early detection, and timely diagnosis; the most advanced treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care; and evaluation. At every stage, the Samaritan Cancer Center emphasizes having coordinated input from a variety of specialists.

Multidisciplinary treatment conferences are a hallmark of the Samaritan Cancer Center’s approach to disease management, says Dr. Daniel McKellar, Medical Director for Oncology Services. He says, “To treat cancer effectively, care can’t be fragmented.”

Samaritan Cancer Center professionals from a broad variety of care disciplines participate in regular conferences to create treatment plans for new patients and, when necessary, review existing cases. The team includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, and pathologists, as well as critical support staff including oncology care coordinators, clinical trial nurses, oncology nurses, physical therapists, registered dietitians, pain specialists, a social worker, and a genetic counselor.

Conferences are held weekly for breast and lung cancers—two of the most common cancers—and for general oncology. Conferences devoted to head and neck cancer are held every other month.

“True multidisciplinary care isn’t easy,” says Dr. McKellar, noting that center physicians and nurses participate in well over 100 conferences a year. “It takes an enormous amount of time. But the physicians here know it produces the best outcomes and are dedicated to making sure cancer patients have the benefit of everyone’s input.” Treatment conferences afford physicians and their patients the benefit of everyone’s expertise.

What’s more, because representatives from every discipline are involved at the outset, conferences ensure clear communication and collaboration. That same teamwork pervades the center’s patient support services. Understanding that people with cancer have individual needs that transcend treatment, the center offers a range of services, including a full-time oncology social worker; specialized melanoma, lung, and breast care coordinators; and pain and palliative care services.

Always Striving for Improvement

The Samaritan Cancer Center’s lung cancer care coordinator, Diane Tousignant, provided Mr. Barlow with a steady source of answers and encouragement throughout his treatment.

“You can tell that everybody there is on the same page,” says Mr. Barlow, whose cancer is in remission. “Whether I was in for a radiation treatment or going to infusion services, everybody knew exactly what should happen next. It was like a Broadway show. Everybody was rehearsed and knew what to do.”

Even the Samaritan Cancer Center’s campus, which centralizes all outpatient services in one location, underscores its overarching commitment to putting patients first. That convenience means a lot for patients and their families, says Mr. Barlow. “My daughter-in-law was able to take me to all my appointments. She wouldn’t have been able to do that if I’d gone somewhere else for treatment.”

Even with its success, the Samaritan Cancer Center continues to strive for improvement. The Samaritan Cancer Center participates in National Cancer Institute clinical trials to give patients access to the most advanced treatment options. An oncology quality-improvement committee continually works to advance the center’s standard of care through peer review of selected cases, performance improvement initiatives, and monitoring of nationally accepted treatment guidelines.

For his part, Johnny Barlow says he can’t imagine there’s much room for improvement. “They’re just an extraordinary group of professionals,” he says. “While they’re there to treat your cancer, they never forget to treat you as a person. They genuinely care, and that comes across in everything they do.”