Leonard Cancer Institute: Embracing the Future and Celebrating a Successful Year
“Looking back, our first year has been amazing,” says Terry Wooten, executive director of operations at Mission Hospital.
The Judi and Bill Leonard Institute for Cancer Prevention, Treatment and Wellness opened in November 2019. With its four-story, state-of-theart facility and personalized, molecular-based medicine, the Leonard Cancer Institute provides patients in our community with specialized cancer care — ensuring that residents of South Orange County have access to the most advanced oncology treatments available.
“I think I will always stand in amazement at the accomplishment of the team at being able to open the infusion center in the middle of COVID,” Terry observes. “Cancer doesn’t stop. Our patients still need us, and they still need their treatment.”
Not only have the caregivers at the Leonard Cancer Institute persisted despite these headwinds, they have achieved a number of remarkable accomplishments along the way. The institute has established a new radiation oncology and infusion center, as well as the Phillips Family Diagnostic Imaging Center. The genetics program and services have also seen significant expansion throughout the year.
In its first year, the Institute initiated and enrolled patients in various research trials, thanks in large part to the hiring of a dedicated clinical research coordinator, Kathryn Irenze. Her enthusiastic efforts have led to the adoption of innovative cancer protocols and have even allowed Mission Hospital patients to enroll in COVID-19 research studies.
The Institute is equipped with Naydene’s Test Kitchen where dieticians provide cooking demonstrations to meet the specific nutritional needs of cancer patients.
In addition to expanding research and genetics, the Institute is currently focused on developing its urology, neurology and melanoma services.
It advanced its gastrointestinal oncology services by bringing on a new colorectal surgeon this past spring.
Plans are also in development to offer holistic services, including acupuncture, massage and a salon at the Valiant Spa and Wellness Corner. Philanthropy continues to play a central role. Terry notes that donors supported the building’s healing spaces, including the Sabatasso Healing Garden and the Quandt Family Serenity Chapel. He also comments that donors have helped fund the Institute’s leading-edge technology, both in and out of clinical settings. “If a nurse navigator has a conversation with a patient, and a family member wants to dial into the room and have a video conference, they’ll be able to be part of the conversation,” says Terry. The communication technology has been especially useful for connecting patients to their loved ones throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
While the Institute has many accomplishments to celebrate this year, there’s more work to be done. “We look forward to the future growth of our cancer program,” Terry continues. “We’re at the point now where we need to grow even faster. There’s more work to be done.”
“I’m constantly amazed and overwhelmed by the nurse navigators’ and clinicians’ compassion for our patients, and their passion to make sure the program is successful,” shares Terry. That degree of commitment sets the Leonard Cancer Institute apart from other cancer treatment facilities in Orange County, and beyond. “Here, every patient is an individual, not as a cancer type,” said Terry.
He is especially moved by the number of former cancer patients that have chosen to support the Institute not only through philanthropy, but also through volunteer work as part of the Hospital Auxiliary. The involvement of cancer survivors creates a powerful human connection for our patients, providing reassurance and companionship along their way.
“We have everything cancer patients need, close to home,” he says. “Our team is here in your community, and with you for your entire journey.”
To learn more about how you can support the Leonard Cancer Institute, please contact Cynthia Campos at Cynthia.Campos@stjoe.org or 949-364-7798.
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