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Medical Center Takes Strategic Action to Elevate Cancer Care

Prominent Surgical Oncologist to Lead Multidisciplinary Team

“I am really looking forward to being part of this exciting new chapter in cancer care at CalvertHealth,” said renowned breast surgical oncologist Theodore N. Tsangaris, MD, MBA, FACS, who joined CalvertHealth as Chief Medical Officer and Program Director, Cancer Center earlier this month. His addition signals a strategic focus and investment of resources in the medical center’s community cancer program.

“I believe we have an opportunity to do something really special here,” said Dr. Tsangaris, whose 30-year career in oncology has included leadership roles at some of the nation’s most prestigious academic institutions. “I think we can be as good as anybody and still maintain what makes Calvert so special – and that’s the sense of community.”

Dr. Tsangaris is very clear about what he describes as the “big idea” for CalvertHealth’s cancer program. “I want the people of Southern Maryland to feel if they or a member of their family had cancer there is no other place they need to go for that care.” He also wants people who live outside the area to consider coming here, too.

He said he realizes the true value of what he calls the intangible qualities. “At CalvertHealth, somebody is going to come up and ask how you’re doing and look at you like you’re more than a number in a clinical trial. When you’re cared for here, it feels safe. It feels like home.”

Building on a Solid Foundation

Dr. Tsangaris is quick to emphasize cancer care at CalvertHealth Medical Center (CHMC) is a team effort. “There’s a solid foundation here,” he said. “This is a true multidisciplinary program that compares in a positive way to what you would find in an academic cancer center.”

Having served as interim medical director of the breast center after the passing of Dr. Sheldon Goldberg in 2011, he is very aware of the “genetics” of CalvertHealth. “The hospital and the people here are committed to outstanding care,” said Dr. Tsangaris. “They want this place to be the best it can be and want patients to choose Calvert with confidence.”

Coming to CalvertHealth Medical Center at this point in his career is a bold move but one he considered carefully before accepting the challenge. “I believe we have strong potential here,” said Dr. Tsangaris. “There’s a lot of hard work ahead but to the best of everyone’s ability there’s also goodwill and commitment.”

He went on to add, “Having been on both sides of the fence, I don’t fool myself. We can’t be MD Anderson or Memorial Sloan Kettering and that’s not the job of a community cancer program. But I think we can leave a legacy of a really wonderful cancer program.”

His addition as the Chief Medical Officer as well as a strategic leader of the medical center’s cancer program has been lauded and embraced as an essential step in CalvertHealth bringing the best contemporary oncology care to a community setting.

“We could have no better partner and team leader in this effort than Dr. Tsangaris,” said CalvertHealth Cancer Committee Chairman Dr. Kenneth Abbott. “He has more than 30 years of clinical expertise in breast surgery and breast cancer care, garnered through his experiences at such accomplished academic medical centers as Johns Hopkins, Yale, George Washington, Georgetown, and most recently, the Thomas Jefferson University Breast Care Center.”

Dr. Abbott, who also serves as vice chief of the medical staff, went on to add, “He is the author of numerous journal articles that have moved the science of cancer steadily forward. Nationally recognized as a leader in his specialty, he brings to CalvertHealth a reputation for top quality, dedication to patients, tireless work and academic respectability.

“Having him join our program,” said Dr. Abbott, “is like a sports team signing the number one draft pick. There is much excitement ahead and deservedly so.”

Targeting a Pressing Need

There is no doubt that cancer care in Calvert County is a pressing need. Cancer was identified as a top health need in the 2014 Community Health Needs Assessment. And again in 2017. The most recent assessment revealed almost every cancer indicator for which there is a measurement is a concern for Calvert County. (For the full report, go to: CalvertHealthMedicine.org)

CalvertHealth does the assessment every three years to identify the community’s greatest healthcare needs and to ensure the medical center’s resources are being directed toward opportunities where the most impact can be realized.

“I see CalvertHealth’s role to invest in services that take care of our community,” said Terri Wolfley, who chairs the board of directors. “It has been well documented that Calvert County has high rates of breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancer incidence and mortality.”

During the past decade, CalvertHealth and the Foundation have invested millions of dollars in the fight against cancer in Calvert – building new facilities like the Sheldon E. Goldberg Center for Breast Care and acquiring cutting-edge technology like lower-dose 3D mammography, which is designed to detect even the most subtle signs of early cancer.

In 2016, CHMC convened a special task force, which resulted in the creation of a dedicated Oncology Service line responsible for coordinating its cancer care efforts with a particular emphasis on those cancers that are seen most often locally.

“An important part of our overall strategy was forming multidisciplinary teams representing numerous specialties to focus on specific tumor sites,” said CalvertHealth Vice President Kasia Sweeney, who oversees oncology at CHMC. These multidisciplinary team planning meetings called “tumor conferences” are considered to be an integral part of optimizing patient outcomes.

The decision to pursue someone of Dr. Tsangaris’ caliber is definitely being viewed by CalvertHealth’s leadership as the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to take its community cancer program to the next level.

“This fits with the mandate by the National Cancer Institute,” said Dr. Tsangaris, “which is quality cancer care should really be kept in the community. People should not have to drive far to access high quality cancer care.”

Marshaling Critical Resources

“There’s a lot of energy being generated by our vision for the cancer program,” said Dr. Tsangaris, “but it’s going to take three things for it be successful – people, philanthropy and partnerships.”

“As Chief Medical Officer, my role is to attract key people to augment the great talent that is already here,” he said. “We need the kind of physicians, nurses and healthcare professionals who are going to help us achieve our mission.”

Equally important in his mind is philanthropy and partnerships. “Frankly, I don’t think anybody, even the big centers, can do what they need to do without the support from the community and from philanthropy and industry. Everybody needs partners to make it work.”

According to Theresa Johnson, who oversees the CalvertHealth Foundation, “We’ve already seen the dramatic impact our donors can make in this area. Their generous contributions have provided many essential resources needed by our cancer program.”

For his part, Dr. Tsangaris knows it will take many hearts, hands and minds pulling together and working together to translate Calvert’s big idea into reality. But he is optimistic. “It’s not just about one person. This is a significant, important and exciting mission. There are so many opportunities for people to get involved. I think they will want to be part of it.”

(Above) CalvertHealth Vice President Kasia Sweeney, who oversees oncology at CHMC, works closely with Dr. Theodore Tsangaris, the new oncology program director.

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