Demand Sparks Cancer Center Growth

Article excerpt

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

Dr. David Fryefield, one of the founders of the Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center, remembers how difficult it was to coordinate services locally for cancer patients before he and five other doctors founded the center in Eugene in 1997, eventually bringing a variety of cancer specialists and services under one roof.

"Radiology was located in the basement of Sacred Heart (Medical Center in downtown Eugene). Medical oncology was a separate practice in the Physicians & Surgeons building. We just had the fax machine running all day long, back and forth, and phone calls all day long trying to coordinate the care of patients receiving both chemotherapy and radiation. It just became chaos."

In the years since the center was born, cancer treatment has become increasingly complex, with patients often receiving multiple kinds of treatment. So the need for coordinated care has grown, and the cancer center has responded to that need, Fryefield said.

Today, the doctor-owned and -operated center has 151 employees, including 16 doctors, spread across three locations in Springfield, Eugene and Florence.

The center had 33,200 patient visits last year, with each patient accounting for multiple visits, executive director Josh Kermisch said. The for-profit center does not disclose annual revenues or other financial figures.

The center's main mission is to provide patients in the community with the highest quality of care and access to the latest therapies, Kermisch said.

The center also attracts patients from outside the Eugene- Springfield area who want to participate in experimental drug trials or have access to other services that are not widely available, such as the center's gynecologic oncology services.

Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center is the only cancer center between San Francisco and Portland that offers gynecologic oncology services, Kermisch said. Gynecologic oncologists are surgeons who collaborate with medical and radiation oncologists to treat gynecologic cancers.

In the past two years, the center's main drive has been to enhance the quality of patients' lives by providing more support services, Kermisch said.

Earlier this month, the center opened the Believe Boutique at its Country Club Road location in Eugene, where volunteers help patients with fitting wigs and prostheses.

The center recently partnered with Cascade Health Solutions to deliver a 16-week course for cancer survivors, covering such topics as the physical side effects of cancer treatment, rebuilding personal finances, nutrition and exercise, and helping partners deal with intimacy issues after treatment and surgery. …