Cancer care expands

Published 6:33 pm Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dr. David Herman, President and CEO of Vidant Health, was among those making comments on Wednesday at the dedication ceremony of the new Cancer Care and Hematology Services Center at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital. Others on the agenda were, seated from left, RCH President Sue Lassiter, ECU Oncology Professor Dr. Darla Liles, RCH Cancer Care Nurse Kasey Pierce, and RCH Director of Development Sandra Woodard. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

Dr. David Herman, President and CEO of Vidant Health, was among those making comments on Wednesday at the dedication ceremony of the new Cancer Care and Hematology Services Center at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital. Others on the agenda were, seated from left, RCH President Sue Lassiter, ECU Oncology Professor Dr. Darla Liles, RCH Cancer Care Nurse Kasey Pierce, and RCH Director of Development Sandra Woodard. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

By Cheryl Deloatch

Contributing Writer

AHOSKIE – Throughout its history, Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital has witnessed numerous historical events.

One can now add August 6 to that recorded history.

On the hospital’s front lawn, the Cancer Care and Hematology Services Center was officially dedicated. This state-of-the-art center will serve the needs of local cancer patients and thereby prevent them from having to travel a great distance to receive vital medical treatment.

RCH President Sue Lassiter provided the welcome and introduced each speaker who joined her on stage – Dr. David Herman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vidant Health; Dr. Darla Liles, Professor and Director of Graduate Medical Education in the East Carolina University Division of Hematology Oncology; Kasey Pearce, Cancer Care Nurse at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital; and Sandra Woodard, Director of Development at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

“We know that cancer patients and their families deserve to receive their care close to home,” Lassiter said. “We are so proud to dedicate this beautiful center today, knowing what a positive difference it will make to those we are privileged to serve. This new center is important to the Roanoke-Chowan area and would not have been possible without the support of our donors, many of you who are in the audience today.”

Lassiter welcomed Dr. Herman to the podium, who told the audience, “I think it’s wonderful to have these facilities in the communities that they serve, and this is just one physical manifestation of the care that communities provide for each other in times of need.

“Cancer is the number one killer here in eastern North Carolina,” he explained.  “This year, 7200 of us here in eastern North Carolina will be diagnosed with cancer. And a very sad part of that is many of us will be diagnosed at a time in the disease when it is too late to make a big difference.

“Our actions here today are just the beginning of a larger picture of providing cancer care to eastern North Carolina.   If we as communities and we as health care providers are going to provide great cancer care, there are four areas that we need to point out and focus our efforts, in order to make a difference. The number one area is awareness.  If we’re not aware of what cancer can do, of the things that cause cancer, and aware of things that can prevent cancer, then we are behind from the beginning.  So you’ll be hearing a lot more from Vidant Health and from your communities in general, about prevention.”

Dr. Herman then explained the second area – prevention, saying, “Prevention is very, very important.  We know that if we can prevent the disease, it makes all of our jobs easier and reduces the burden of the disease in the communities.”

“The third most important area is diagnosis,” Dr. Herman said.  “The reason that cancer in eastern North Carolina is such a killer is because here in eastern North Carolina, we diagnose cancer at a later stage than just about anywhere else in America. Those of you who are cancer survivors, those of you who treat patients with cancer, and those of you who had family members with cancer know that if you are diagnosed at stage one or two, there is a possibility for a cure. If you are diagnosed at stage three or four, that makes it very difficult to get a cure.  It makes it very difficult for you and your families to deal with the disease. ”

“The fourth point is why we’re here today, and that’s treatment,” he added. “What we need here in eastern North Carolina is state-of-the-art treatment centers close to home that provide that care, so people don’t have to drive.  We know that people do better when they have the support of their family members and their communities, when they are going through a difficult time like cancer.”

Herman noted a $181 million commitment by Vidant to build cancer care services in eastern North Carolina.

“If the cancer is at a stage where it’s the type of cancer that cannot be adequately treated within the community, we’ll have another option for great specialists, great facilities and something closer to home than the Triangle, where people can get their great care,” he said.

He noted the use of  cancer navigators, helping to make sure the appointments are scheduled at a convenient time, helping to make sure that patients can get the transportation to those appointments, and to answer questions.

Dr. Liles spoke about her job, one that helps link the services at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital with the services at Leo Jenkins Cancer Center in Vidant Medical Center.   (The Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center provides outpatient cancer treatment services on the medical campus of Vidant Medical Center and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville.)

“When I first started coming up here two years ago, I was seeing patients in Greenville on the in-patient service,” Liles said. “There was a lady from here in Ahoskie. I said, ‘I can treat you in Ahoskie.’ She (the patient) said, ‘No one gets treated in Ahoskie. I don’t want to go to Ahoskie; I want to go to Duke or come here to Vidant Medical Center.’ I talked to her over several days. She finally decided to come here for treatment.  By the end of her treatments, she said, ‘I know that I am better because of these wonderful people who took care of me.’ She was convinced, and she told other people.”

“And over the two years, we have seen more and more of these individuals come back and understand that they can get treated here and get the same kind of quality care that you can get at Duke, UNC, or Vidant Medical Center.  You don’t need to necessarily always go some other place to get your care,” she added.

Pearce provided another important reason for having a cancer care center in northeastern North Carolina.

“According to the American Cancer Society, in 2013 alone, 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer. That number is increasing every year,” Pearce stressed.” However, with the advances we have in technology and the services that we have here, we are doing an amazing job at treating cancer. With the services that we have and the services we have in Greenville, why wouldn’t you choose Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital for your care? I’ll tell you why. Greenville is about 60 miles away; the same thing with Virginia.  We bring not just doctors from Greenville; we bring the best doctors from Greenville to care for you here. We have Dr. Liles and Dr. Jorge Abdallah. He is one of a very few privately practicing physicians with a stand-alone clinic. He comes here once a week. For the past couple of years, they have been coming, one day each, every week. We found out those two days a week were not enough. So now, they will be coming three days a week, with the addition of Dr. Hopkins. Our doctors drive 60 miles so that you don’t have to make that trip.”

Woodard recognized the people who donated money to the new clinic.

“I am honored and privileged to recognize the ones who have helped to make this day possible,” she said. “Because of the generosity of our major donors, supporters, friends and so many community members, churches and clubs, physicians, as well as medical staff and hundreds of hospital employees, the new cancer and hematology services unit has been made possible.  The list is too long to announce everyone by name, but we wish to recognize two of our outstanding local business leaders who have given so generously to this campaign.

“Mr. Ray Felton, your tireless dedication to the cause of finding a cure for cancer has not gone unnoticed in Hertford and Gates counties,” Woodard observed. “Most everyone knows you from the Relay for Life events held each year at Chowan University.  You have further demonstrated your spirit of giving by being a major donor to our hospital cancer care campaign.  Your donation in the name of Metal Tech and the Ray and Brock Felton Families of Gates County makes one of our beautiful new exam rooms a reality.

“Another major donor and outstanding leader in our business community is Nucor,” Woodard added. “Since Nucor became an active part of our community after opening its Winton location they have taken an interest in the life, health and work of the local community where they live. Nucor’s generosity has made one exam room and one chemotherapy chair possible. “

Other major donors include Hosts for the Hospital and all of the community supporters who gave to these two fundraisers, Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Employees, Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Medical Staff, and Roanoke-Chowan Foundation.

After the ceremony, Felton was asked why he chose to donate to the new clinic.

“My wife and I are cancer survivors. I have a son who is going through extensive cancer treatment. We have other employees who either have had it, have it, or will have it.   It’s as much in honor of my employees as it is of anybody,” Felton said.

VidantRoanoke-ChowanHospital Marketing Director Lisa Newsome provided this insight. “We are so proud of our new cancer services suite. This has been a dream of ours for several years. As we have begun to serve more and more cancer patients locally, we realized that we needed more space, we needed a place that is much more comfortable for our patients to come and for our families to be served as well.   So, the six beautiful chemotherapy bays, the four exam rooms, the conference space, the patient and family lounge, all overlooking this beautiful garden, you couldn’t ask for a more lovely and spacious facility anywhere in the state.  I’m so proud that our cancer patients don’t have to travel out of town to receive the care they need.”

The daughter of deceased cancer patient Ollie Brown discussed what this center means to her.

“Daddy loved to laugh and he loved being around people. As difficult as it was to receive treatment, Daddy loved being around the people here he counted as his friends,” Debbie Brown Ward said.  “He survived blood cancer for a long time and lived to be 91. So we are very thankful for the new cancer center. It will be wonderful. We are sorry that people will have to use it, but we know that they will receive the best possible care.”

Local physician Dr. Michael Alston is a member of both the Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Employees and Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Medical Staff. He shared these thoughts on the significance of having a new center in this area. “It’s wonderful. I grew up here and I have seen the evolution of this hospital over my lifetime.  One of my parents had cancer and got treatment in Greenville. I know what it will mean to have that all that here and certainly for my patients, having their care here is going to be wonderful.”

The Tour

After entering the hospital, guests viewed the In Honor and Memory Wall. Many of the people whose names are displayed here had relatives who died from cancer, but they did not necessarily make contributions to the clinic. For example, Mildred E. Peele lost four sisters and her husband to cancer. The butterfly on another wall was painted by hospital employees during Hospital Week in May. The Wall of Honor displays the names of major donors to the cancer clinic. The names of people who donated $10,000 or more appear at the top.

“This is a temporary wall, and a permanent wall will be made after we receive more donations,” Newsome said.

The hospital is still accepting contributions throughout August and September. People who are interested in contributing can call Sandra Woodard, Director of Development, at 209-3067.

The cancer clinic has three examination rooms and one procedure room.  Each examination room is equipped with an examination table, a computer and art work. The pieces of artwork found in each room were loaned by these local residents: local attorney Ernie Carter, who serves on the Roanoke-Chowan Foundation board; Peggy Brinkley, local artist; and Myrna Perry, retired art teacher from Northampton County.  The cancer chairs, which are quite comfortable, are near the windows and provide a beautiful view of the bird bath. Local artist Jim Messer donated the ceramic bird bath which sits outside the cancer clinic, on the lawn.  Each cancer chair is heated and has a massage option.

“Our corporation, Rivers Correctional, purchased a cancer chair,” said Rivers Public Relations Officer Amy Gillus, a native of Murfreesboro.

Added Touch Florist of Ahoskie created the floral arrangements in the reception area of the clinic.

A birdhouse and bird feeder were donated by Mr. Rufus Daniels of Farmville. Daniels is the father of Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital staff member Wendy Flake.

According to the media packet prepared for this ceremony, “Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital has seen an increase in admissions of patients with cancer in the past year. In fact, patient volumes have increased by 40 percent. There was a need for a larger patient and family focused cancer care and hematology unit.”