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Partnership: Cancer Care With Compassion

Publication: The Daily Tribune, Mount Pleasant

When Texas Oncology came to the Mount Pleasant community in 1988, it was in response to an observation made by a Paris physician.

“Dr. Cochran out of Paris started a medical oncology outreach here in 1988,” Ewell Byrd, practice director for the Mount Pleasant and Paris oncology centers, said. “He started the outreach so patients would not have to travel to Paris to be seen and get their chemotherapy treatments.”

Eventually, the outreach evolved, building to semi-weekly physician visits, when the Patti and Bo Pilgrim Cancer Center was built. The 10,000 sq. ft. facility is a partnership between Titus Regional Medical Center and Texas Oncology. The state-of-the-art facility offers both medical and radiation oncologic care.

“I think a lot of people are not aware of what we have to offer here as far as technology and radiation treatments,” Byrd said.

According to Byrd, most cancer centers will adhere to a certain standard of care, but what makes Texas Oncology stand out is its patient-centered research and service.

“Our company has developed an additional level of care. We look at what is the most effective, cost-efficient way of treating the patient. We always look at what is best for the patient,” Byrd said.

Because the Mount Pleasant cancer center is one of many cancer centers in the Texas Oncology and U.S. Oncology networks, the connections and resources provided at the Dr. James Wilder, M.D., a board-certified radiation oncologist at the center, said one of his concerns is public perception of a small-town cancer center.

“One thing I worry about is in a small-town environment like this people begin to think you have to go to a bigger city to treat cancer, but we’re completely capable of treating 90-plus percent of all cancer situations that require chemo or radiation,” Wilder said.

According to Wilder, the treatment protocols and pathways are pretty well standardized, and patients receive the same treatment in Mount Pleasant that they would receive in a larger facility.

“There are some specialized technologies and techniques that we’re not equipped to handle here,” Wilder admitted, “but those situations are rare. We have the network and resources that, if our patient needs one of those highly specialized treatments, we can easily facilitate getting them there for that treatment.”

Wilder also explained that the physicians at the cancer center have access to an abundance of group-wide resources within the Texas Oncology and U.S. Oncology network.

“We have a group-wide email forum that we can present difficult cases and receive commentary from colleagues. We can get advice from nationally-renowned academic experts. These are mechanisms by which we can get input from our partners and colleagues as well as independent expert review,” Wilder said.

Dr. Nayyar Syed, M.D., is board certified in hematology and oncology, and serves as the full-time medical oncologist at the cancer center.

“There is no other condition that’s scarier than the term cancer,” Syed said. “Cancer just carries that bad name.”
Syed said he is proud to work for Texas Oncology because of the level of patient care and the company’s dedication to cancer research.

“Texas Oncology has never told me to say yes or no to any patient. I have never said no to any patient, even if they don’t have insurance. Other facilities cannot provide the kind of care that combination brings,” Syed said.
Syed said Texas Oncology allows him the resources to help his patients get the best treatment.

“We have the best software, the most state-of-the-art equipment, and a large team of partners that can get the patient the care they need,” Syed said.

Byrd and Syed also said Texas Oncology offers a large number of Phase 1 clinical trials, and brings new drugs to the market often.

“Even though we do not have the facility or the volume for a clinical trial here, I can get my patients enrolled in clinical trials effortlessly,” Syed said.

According to Syed, he currently has several patients enrolled in clinical trials.

“Not only can these trials benefit the patients, but it benefits future patients with the knowledge it brings to the research,” Syed said.

Syed said there are many things that set Texas Oncology apart from other cancer centers, including his personal philosophy and his staff.

“In school they would tell us that medical oncology is half technology, half science, and half art,” he said. “The art, in my opinion, is empathy, sympathy and compassion. You look into the eyes of the person and you are helping them decide if they’re going to get their treatment here. It’s personal contact that makes a difference.”
Syed said the one-on-one care at small cancer centers create connections that are not easily made at other centers.

He also said his staff also makes a large impact on the level of patient care.

“I recently learned that some of my nurses were giving rides to patients after their treatments. They had found out that the patient had to walk to their treatment because they didn’t have a car, and some of the nurses began giving the patients rides and taking them back home after treatment. That’s not something you would get in a larger facility,” Syed said.

Overall, Syed believes that the biggest impact the cancer center brings to the community is made through those personal connections.

“This isn’t just about treating the patient. You have to have compassion. It’s the whole combination of those things that bring value to this community,” he said.

Texas Oncology, or the Patti and Bo Pilgrim Cancer Center, is located at 2101 Mulberry St. For more information, contact the center at 903-434-4850.

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