Working toward a fantasy cancer center

One of the most forward-thinking aspects of the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Program is the expectation that every cancer center have a yearly visit from an External Advisory Board (EAB).

These are not accreditation visits. They are purely advisory, which encourages the cancer center staff to be completely open and transparent about challenges and opportunities and brainstorm about how to build an ideal “fantasy cancer center.” For example, how can we support clinical cancer research when funding from the federal government only covers half the costs of government sponsored clinical trials? Or, how can you incorporate the great advances taking place in molecular diagnosis into patient care?

Every year, the advice we receive from the Holden EAB is incredibly helpful. I also learn a huge amount by serving on EABs of other cancer centers, including Ohio State, Oregon, Kansas, Virginia, Arkansas, Hawaii, Fox Chase and Rutgers. When on an EAB, I sometimes hear ideas I can bring back to Iowa. Other times, I hear about challenges at other centers that are not issues at Iowa—these make me thankful for our outstanding team and what we have accomplished.

A wonderful culture has emerged among the cancer center directors who participate on EABs. We all recognize we share the same mission and need to help each other in any way possible. When I serve on an EAB, and see a cancer center succeed based in part on our advice, I get great satisfaction from knowing that we have helped the cancer patients of that community. The EAB culture allows us to share best practices, serve our patients and communities more effectively, and advance cancer research together as quickly as possible.

I also take advantage of the traveling to EAB meetings when possible. I had an EAB meeting at Rutgers last Friday and was able to stay in New Jersey for the weekend visiting with cousins. I really enjoyed the change in pace including such relaxing activities as card games and a discussion of fantasy football.

This got me thinking about my experiences on EABs and how I would put together a “fantasy cancer center” based on what I have seen at other Cancer Centers. Here are some of my draft picks…

  • New cancer hospital – Ohio State
  • Support from state government – New Jersey
  • Philanthropic support – Oregon
  • Drug development capabilities – Kansas
  • Weather – Hawaii

but, of course, my number 1 draft pick would be…

  • Colleagues and people – Iowa