Post a brief description of what you believe will be most challenging for you, as a human services professional, based on the topics covered in this week’s media presentation

Discussion 2: Personal Challenges

This course has focused on the goal of changing the world through one person, one organization, and one community at a time. Through course readings, media, and learning activities, you have gained insights to this exciting field and challenging task of igniting change. For this Discussion, reflect on what you believe will be most challenging for you, as a human services professional aspiring to influence change. Consider strategies you might use to overcome these challenges and positively impact clients.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post a brief description of what you believe will be most challenging for you, as a human services professional, based on the topics covered in this week’s media presentation. Explain two strategies you might use to address these potential challenges. Include specific examples of how you might implement these strategies.

West Michigan Cancer Center

West Michigan Cancer Center Program Transcript


TERRY MCKAY: I would define a human services professional as someone who has a great deal of passion for human needs; whether they are shelter, food, health care, or whatever the need of the human spirit requires. In my particular profession, we deal with patients and we treat patients with cancer. So, they have a great deal of needs for treatment, but they also have needs that affect their family life, their everyday life, their work life. One of the major drivers of anyone who works with cancer patients, in particular, is compassion.

There was a national search for a CEO to head up this comprehensive cancer center called the West Michigan Cancer Center, which is a joint venture of two competing hospitals here in Kalamazoo.

In 1992, the two hospitals Borgess and Bronson hospitals were both in need of very expensive radiation therapy equipment. Back then; each piece of this equipment would be costing over 1 million dollars. At that time, the CEO of Upjohn, the very large pharmaceutical company here in Kalamazoo that is now Pfizer and some other city fathers got together and suggested that perhaps a joint venture might be in order so that we would not have duplication of very costly equipment here in Kalamazoo. So, they came together and they were intent on building a joint venture and having a radiation therapy center alone.

There was someone who went to national meetings and said who is one of the top five individuals in the business of oncology who knows how to build a cancer center and manage it and my name came up.

I got a phone call from Kalamazoo, Michigan, in Philadelphia at my desk. And they said, “Will you come for an interview.” I have to admit the farthest and the only place I had ever been in the Midwest was Chicago. I had no idea about Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had not even heard the song about I had a gal in Kalamazoo.

I have my undergraduate degree and graduate degree in business administration and my graduate degree is from the University of Pennsylvania. So, presumably, I could run any kind of a business. But there is no other business than that of taking care of cancer patients that I would want to embark upon.


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West Michigan Cancer Center

How I got into the profession is I rather fell into because I had a very close friend who was in a position to recommend me for what turned out to be the job of my lifetime working for an internationally renowned cancer expert in Philadelphia at Hahnemann University who I worked with for 21 years and was a mentor of mine and taught me everything that I know about the specialty of oncology and also everything I know about how to run a business. So, I was pretty blessed into coming into that position and it was my passion and my compassion that kept me in this field of oncology.

The evolution of caring for a cancer patient has taken a very long road from back in 1992 when this was, this concept was first developed and of having a comprehensive cancer center with all services under one roof. When we first started, we had the basics. We had medical oncology, chemotherapy, radiation therapy. But, you know then there was some studies that came out very early on in the 90s about exercise improving and staving off recurrence of breast cancer. And, that kind of was the kernel of what more can we do for our patients, what more can we do to get their life back.

I was really intent upon having a cancer center not look like a hospital setting, but rather one of a welcoming large living room where people would come in and feel pretty welcome and pretty comfortable. So, the architecture and the services that we started with back in 1994 when we opened our doors was very intense upon treating the entire person, not just the disease. During that treatment, we want to treat them holistically. And so we started off with some exercise programs and from there we went on to the massage. And so we really do push treating this total person, treating the person psychologically, with nutrition—we have on staff a dietitian that the patients see for consultation, for help with good diet and exercise programs, we have cooking classes here once a month, again to teach patients how to cook healthy dinners.

It’s not us giving them chemo, it’s not them—us giving them radiation. They are doing the exercise, they’re doing the cooking, they’re seeking out the psychological counseling, they’re going to Pilates. They’re taking control of their own destiny. It empowers them.

We have a hundred volunteers here who have all been survivors of our cancer center who are the coffee cart ladies who go around and give coffee twice a day. We have clown therapy. We have art therapy. We have music therapy. These are all volunteers who have gone through their treatment here, gone through that scary time when they first entered our doors and they come back because they want to pay back, they want to give back to the patients.

When you have the diagnosis of cancer, it’s a huge interruption of your life and you come here every day for radiation therapy, or you come here for 6 months for chemotherapy, you have a really strong lifeline to this, to the Cancer Center, to this organization.

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West Michigan Cancer Center

My focus and responsibilities as CEO is to be sure that I have highly skilled, qualified staff taking care of patients, that I have the necessary funding and finances to support the mission of taking care of all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

We are a not for profit organization and we have an obligation to serve all people of southwest Michigan in particular. And many of those patients will come to our doors without the wherewithal to pay for our services but are in dire need of our services.

We understand this is not something they planned to do. This is not something they elected. We really are pretty reasonable and working with them and to pay off their balance and on a time line that’s comfortable for them and an amount of money that’s comfortable for them.

Because we’re not for profit, we take care of people who are—who have an inability to pay. So, we rely on fund-raising, we rely on relationships where we can get drug replenishment for people who are not able to pay for the chemotherapy drugs that are very, very expensive. So, we have a lot of other human service organizations with which we work because we need to do that in order to treat every single person equally. The primary demographic that we see here at the Cancer Center are senior citizens, so they’re on Medicare.

The second largest demographic that we service are what I’m going to call our pre baby boomers and they are or the baby boomers who are not yet 65. This generation is the most educated, certainly of the generations that have gone before, certainly the most demanding, and also have the highest expectations. And so when you are running an organization like the West Michigan Cancer Center and this group of individuals are diagnosed by cancer, they have already gone out on the Internet, they have researched everything that there is about their disease, they have researched every possible treatment regiment that they can go on and they come here armed with all of these print-outs from the Internet and have almost a pre-disposition of what treatment regiment they’re going to go on. So it’s really requiring a new set of skills by our physicians to really deal with this very well educated, well-informed, well-resourced population. It isn’t just, “Take this and call me in the morning,” anymore. Our physicians really go into a great deal of explanation of why this, why this and what the side effects are. And it goes back very much, frankly, to our philosophy of treating the entire person

I was not aware that there was a Lifeline Initiative available through the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and the Greater United Way. But I had a need and my need was that when I was president for the Susan G. Komen southwest Michigan affiliate, I began a program called pink Saturdays.

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West Michigan Cancer Center

Pink Saturdays is a program that offers free mammograms every Saturdays in October, which is breast cancer awareness month, to women who are uninsured. The women call an 800 number and they are asked a series of questions because these are screening mammograms. They answer a series of questions about their general breast health if you will, and also about their financial situation.

So they have the mammogram and the mammogram can either be fine and they’re told, they get a letter that says the mammogram is fine, no further studies or anything needs to be done or they may get notified that it’s—they want to have other compression films or they want to have an ultrasound or they want to have a biopsy.

We have carefully set up this program that the women not only get the screening mammogram but if they have any other subsequent diagnostic studies that they need done as it relates to their breast health, it’s provided for. If they’re diagnosed with cancer, that’s also provided for and we get them treated.

For three years, that program was funded. And I was coming up on the fourth year in 2010 in September, August/September of 2010 and my funding was no longer there to do this program. I could not let it happen that we would not provide this much-needed program. And so on a very beautiful sunny day in Kalamazoo, I walked myself down—I had an appointment and I walked myself down to the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and met with Juan Olivarez and told him my situation and I left there after a brief meeting with this prince of a man, and felt I’m probably going to be able to do this.

I was awarded the Lifeline grant. And not only that, but Juan also worked the telephones and I got some personal contributions and the checks started coming in. And I’m very happy to say that we did have pink Saturdays. We’ve done almost 1100 free mammograms to uninsured women.

What I used the Lifeline grant for was to provide for the answering service to set up, take all the phone calls because we get like 4 or 5 thousand phone calls as you can imagine, and set up all the appointments at all the many facilities throughout southwest Michigan and to do the advertising and the promotions so that women are aware that this program is available.

We did almost 2,000 drops of information all throughout southwest Michigan. These are individual drops to hairdressers, to Laundromats; to any store who will let us put our promotional materials and our phone number for free mammograms. So, it’s a lot of manpower and a lot of getting the word out. And, frankly, getting the word out in a pretty short period of time.

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West Michigan Cancer Center

This program will go on and continue to flourish because there are now grants being put in place right now for next year’s program so that we will be assured funding. And, so, to date, we have done over 4,000 free mammograms and we have diagnosed seven women with cancer, five of whom have been under the age of 49 years of age. And those women have also been successfully treated in their own communities.

I think our future role in Kalamazoo is going to become more and more prominent. We will be covering and providing coverage for patients way into their 80s and 90s. And it isn’t—and more than likely, they won’t die from their cancer, they’ll die from something else. This is all spectacular news, quite frankly. But the challenge that we face because of that is that there are not enough physicians, not enough oncologists, medical oncologists or radiation oncologists to really care of those patients into their 80s and 90s because of chronic illness like cancer.

So, what we’re doing to combat that is—and to prepare for that is right now this year, we’re starting a survivor clinic. And, so, that survivor clinic will be here at the cancer center. If the patient chooses to be followed here at the cancer center, they also have a choice to be followed by their primary care physician, and it is our obligation when we discharge that patient from our service because they’re going to have a long lifeline ahead of them, it is our obligation to give them a survivorship plan.

They will have a plan of what needs to be done to follow them appropriately so we don’t miss anything in the future if they should recur or relapse, and that survivorship clinic is going to be staffed either a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner. And because the survivorship clinic is here on our premises, if there is anything questionable that the PA or the nurse practitioner will be concerned about, they will immediately go to the attending physician and ask the question and then possibly set up an appointment for the attending physician.

We’re a rather young organization because we’re only going into our 16th year— so, rather young. But during those years, we really have become the crown jewel of the community and certainly what everyone points to about the what collaboration really looks like between two competitive hospitals.

I think in the future, I think we’re going to see a lot more collaboration and affiliation. Of course, we’re very excited about the potential of a medical school with Western Michigan University, which will be phenomenal, it will be a— obviously, will be an educational, educational site for medical students and then we have—we already have their nursing students and their PA students. So, we would be a wonderful educational experience for the medical students because this is—they’re going to become doctors and if they’re oncologists, they’re going to be practicing in centers like this.

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West Michigan Cancer Center

I think you’re going to see more and more very sophisticated models of where you can be very adequately cared for at home. This is all going to be done electronically by computers, by something more sophisticated than Skype certainly but in that vein. We’re really on the brink I think of changing how health care is delivered and what kind of settings health care is delivered in.

And I think in terms of fund-raising, I think more and more grant writing and more grant requests will be going out to agencies to provide the services that we have here. All of the complimentary services, the Tai Chi and the exercise and the massage and all of that, that is all funded by contributions and grants, it’s not funded by my operating budget.

So, those programs keep growing. They’re the expectation of the patients for that keep growing. I think also with the economy in Michigan in particular and the economy bouncing back rather slowly, I think that we’re going to see more and more patients who simply don’t have the ability to pay and we will need to augment that through other funding sources.

I was very fortunate to go into the not for profit world and I am particularly more importantly into oncology. There is no other business that I would want to run, no other specialty than oncology that I’d want to participate in.

I think working in the not for profit arena is very rewarding. I think that taking care of cancer patients has been extremely gratifying for me. I’m particularly privileged to be able to in some part provide high quality care for cancer patients.

West Michigan Cancer Center Additional Content Attribution

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