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LewisGale Hospital announces partnership with Sarah Cannon

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

Thursday a ribbon cutting ceremony at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski was held to mark a new partnership with the Sarah Cannon Research Institute.

Administrators, employees and members of the hospital’s Board of Trustees all gathered on a sunny but blustery Thursday afternoon to announce this new partnership, which is said to greatly improve the hospital’s cancer fighting capabilities.

“Today marks a paradigm shift in terms of the way that cancer care will be delivered in the New River Valley for years to come,” said LewisGale Hospital Pulaski CEO Sean Pressman. “What that means is now more than ever, the individuals who live across the New River Valley who are diagnosed with cancer don’t need to leave the area for care. They can tap into the finest resources, finest technologies, finest people and the finest medicines to improve their care, to improved their lives and to survive.”

Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, offers integrated cancer services with cutting-edge therapies for cancer patients. Sarah Canon’s cancer programs include individualized patient navigation provided by oncology-trained nurses, 1,200 stem cell transplants performed annually, hundreds of clinical trial and molecular profiling capabilities.

But who is Sarah Cannon? She is familiar to many under the stage name of Minnie Pearl, who appeared at the Grand Ole Opry from 1940 to 1991 and on Hee Haw for more than two decades. Minnie Pearl’s comedy was centered around hillbilly culture and she always appeared on stage wearing a hat with a large price tag visibly dangling to the side.

Sarah Cannon (Minnie Pearl) contracted breast cancer but eventually recovered.

“She was treated in Nashville at one of the flagship HCA hospitals,” said Jonathan Tinker, President of Group Oncology services for Sarah Cannon. “She wanted to promote cancer research for both multi-disciplinary care, as well as education and prevention.”

The Sarah Cannon Research Institute was founded using the name given to her at birth.

“This partnership is going to keep us on the forefront,” said Tinker. “Not just in the way we diagnose and treat, but also working and advocating for more resources and tools.”

“With this merger we can improve the timeliness and quality of care and ultimately … hopefully we will be able to say we have been instrumental in curing cancer in the New River Valley with the prospect of Pulaski being on the forefront,” said oncologist Dr. Karanita Ojomo when her turn came to speak.

Regina Clark began her relationship with LewisGale Hospital Pulaski as a cancer patient but then went on to work as a nurse at the hospital. She too, spoke to the those gathered in the crowd in advance of the ribbon cutting.”

“When I found out that I had cancer I was angry. I was nervous. I went through every emotion and then I went to this cancer center,” said Clark. “I immediately felt loved and cared for. The staff here were like family to me. This past year helped save my life. We have such an amazing facility right here in the New River Valley.”

“Cancer is real,” Clark continued. “Every one of us will be affected by it in some way. The only thing scarier than knowing you have cancer is not knowing you have cancer. As a cancer patient … please be screened because cancer does not mean death anymore! One day we hope that we won’t need these cancer centers, but that’s not realistic. Cancer will eventually affect all of our lives in some way. Having said that, we at the LewisGale cancer center will be here to see you through.”

The last to speak before the new signage was unveiled and the Chamber of Commerce’s ceremonial ribbon was cut was President of the Board of Trustees, William Hale.

“LewisGales partnership with Sarah Cannon will bring research, innovation, physician collaboration and patient focused care to the citizens of southwest Virginia,” said Hale. “This partnership takes this cancer center from one of regional excellence to one that can provide world class care right here at home. This cancer center will be a destination facility. People will travel from all over to come here to receive care.”

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