Patients with the hardest-to-cure cancers no longer have to leave northeast Indiana for treatment.
That was the message Parkview Cancer Institute leaders stressed Wednesday when they announced the center's new status as a certified member of the MD Anderson Cancer Network.
Dr. Neil Sharma, Parkview Cancer Institute's president, said the designation could make what is already a regional destination for cancer patients into a national one.
The new alliance will allow local oncologists to use best practice guidelines for cancer detection and treatment. They will have easy access to MD Anderson's latest research and treatment options.
And Parkview's doctors will be able to consult with some of the best cancer doctors in the world, sharing patient scans and test results to get second opinions.
“This serves as a system of checks and balances to make sure every patient gets the best care every single time,” Sharma added.
Dr. William Murphy, board chairman of the MD Anderson Physicians Network, traveled from Houston for the announcement. He is a professor of diagnostic radiology with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
More than 20,000 MD Anderson faculty and staff in Houston are united, Murphy said, in a single mission – to end cancer.
“The patients will receive another level of care,” Murphy said of the certification, which became official Wednesday.
“Your program is excellent already,” he added, addressing more than 100 Parkview employees gathered in the cancer center's second-floor indoor garden. “We choose members of the MD Anderson Cancer Network extremely carefully.”
That selection process went both ways. Parkview began talks with MD Anderson's network about a year ago, Sharma said. Local officials wanted to ensure the health care providers have compatible quality standards and organizational philosophies.
“We wouldn't affiliate merely over brand,” Sharma said, acknowledging MD Anderson's high name recognition.
MD Anderson's Cancer Network is relatively selective with 18 member organizations, including 40 certified hospitals and several thousand certified doctors.
The three certified organizations nearest to Fort Wayne are Community Health Network, Indianapolis; Premier Health, Dayton, Oho; and OhioHealth, Columbus, Ohio.
Dr. Richard Zhang, a medical oncologist with Parkview, recently became an MD Anderson certified doctor.
He described it as a “very strict certification process” that required him to share clinical notes so that oncologists in Houston could compare them to national and MD Anderson standards.
All of Parkview's oncologists will be asked to complete the same process, Zhang said.
MD Anderson will continually audit all of Parkview's cancer patient outcomes to ensure rigorous standards are being met.
Sharma is confident that the collaboration will elevate the $101 million Parkview Cancer Institute's game.
“It's like playing basketball,” he said. “You want to play basketball with people who are better than you so you get better.”
Wednesday's announcement came just two weeks shy of the 181,000-square-foot cancer center's one-year anniversary. “
We've come quite a long way,” Sharma said, “in a very short period of time.”