‘No. 2 is not good enough’

Penrose-St. Francis President and CEO Brian Erling discusses becoming a certified member of the MD Anderson Cancer Network before a standing-room-only crowd at the Penrose Cancer Center on March 26.

Penrose, Dorcy cancer centers join MD Anderson Cancer Network

The Penrose Cancer Center at Penrose-St. Francis Medical Center and St.-Mary Corwin Medical Center’s Dorcy Cancer Center in Pueblo are certified members of the MD Anderson Cancer Network.

The partnership was announced Tuesday and certifies that the facilities have met Anderson’s strict criteria for patient care, provider qualifications and training, among others. Peter Banko, the president and CEO of Penrose-St. Francis and St.-Mary Corwin parent network Centura Health, said during a press conference that the certification was deeply personal.

Banko, 51, told a standing-room-only crowd gathered in the Penrose Cancer Center atrium that when his father was his age, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He wasn’t expected to live longer than 4 months, but with good care survived for 18 months.

Banko made his father a death-bed promise to change cancer care for patients who were to come. And while the Colorado Springs and Pueblo centers already provided exceptional, whole-patient treatment, the partnership with MD Anderson connects caregivers with the global leaders in research and care, Banko said.

“For Centura, when it comes to cancer … No. 2 is not good enough,” he said. “So we partnered with No. 1.”

Earning the certification is no easy task. Both clinics underwent clinical practice reviews, and rigorous on- and off-site evaluations of medical, radiation and surgical oncology programs, according to a press release. Anderson also conducted reviews of patient-care services, including inpatient, diagnostic imaging, pathology, laboratory, pharmacy and IV therapy.

The certification means local physicians will have access to the resources and expertise of MD Anderson’s global-leading providers, researchers and technology. Dr. James Allison, chair of the MD Anderson immunology department won the 2018 Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine for introducing a care technique that treats the immune system rather than the tumor.

Penrose-St. Francis President and CEO Brian Erling said the certification process took 14 months, but he never doubted it would happen. Since Spencer Penrose donated the first radiological treatment in the state in 1941, the hospital has been at the forefront of cancer care, Erling said.

“People shouldn’t have to [travel] to get care,” he said. “We have all the highest-level care and equipment. We had the first radiology program in the country.”

But most importantly,  “We really have some amazing people.”

regan.foster@southeastexpress.org. 

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