Cancer Currents for January 2013

News and Notes from the Director
Photo: Mark Israel, Director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center

The bright, crisp days of January are some of New Hampshire's most stunning and they provide a bracing backdrop to launch a new year renewing our commitment to those for whom we care. The rejuvenation we find from our days off in December's provides buoyancy when we start anew in January. Our plans for 2013 are ambitious and will result in substantive improvements throughout the Cancer Center. Underpinning the coming improvements is our Strategic Plan that identifies, on the research side, seven goals and clear tactics, leaders, and resources to achieve each one. A similar plan is in place for the clinical enterprise delineating goals and exactly how we will make them happen.

Throughout, the emphasis is on teamwork, collegiality, and collaboration. The complex world of cancer from the lab bench to infusion suite requires that we work together – leveraging each person's knowledge and taking time to brainstorm new concepts. We're exactly one year away from submission of our next Cancer Center Support Grant application (over 1,000 pages!) to the National Cancer Institute. At stake is a $15 million grant over five years that funds our research infrastructure and our designation as an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The NCI makes it abundantly clear that great science is not enough to win the designation; we have to show "value added." They look for evidence that the Cancer Center has provided the leadership, collaborative opportunities, complex technologies, and accessibility to the clinics to enhance the opportunity for high impact science. No sprinkling of pixie dust can make this happen – it's all about us getting together and working to stretch our vision and our commitment.

I have every confidence that 2013, the Cancer Center's 41st year, will be the best yet. Welcome back to work; there is much to be done.

Mark Israel, Director

Why I am here

Jeffrey O'Brien Saying that cancer runs in my family would be an understatement. My mother had eight brothers and sisters; all died from a cancer-related diagnosis. My mother is also a breast cancer survivor. My father survived prostate cancer, but not bladder cancer. He died about five years ago. I have two older brothers, one is a prostate cancer survivor; the other, we lost to lung cancer at 51.

During my father's illness, my wife Michelle, a registered nurse, devoted herself to being his advocate and navigator. She took him to every appointment—radiation, chemotherapy, radiology, urology and more. In Louisville, KY, we experienced great fragmentation. Radiation oncology didn't know the hematology oncology treatment plan. None of the doctors talked to each other. It was Michelle who reported MRI test results to the physicians and kept everyone informed about Dad's treatment plans and progress, not the other way around.

When the end was near, my Dad called me to his bedside. "Jeff I want you to do something for me. First he said move back to New England to raise your family. Second do something about this cancer," he said.

O'Brien family

The men in my family here at a college reunion in 1997. (From left to right) My dad, John O'Brien (died of bladder cancer); my oldest brother, John J. O'Brien (survived prostate cancer); my middle brother Timothy O'Brien (died of lung cancer), and me. This photo sits on my desk at work as a tribute and reminder of my daily purpose.

"Dad I am not a doctor or a scientists," I said. "What can I do about cancer?"

"You have seen what Michelle has done for my care. You saw what your aunts, uncles, and brothers went through. You may not be able to change the outcome, but there has to be a better way to care for those with cancer," he said.

My father was an administrator with the VA. I have spent my entire career in hospital administration. I understood what he meant. Care needed to be provided in a more coordinated fashion.

I am excited about what we can accomplish in an integrated group model to improve the patient experience. Let's work to make the journey better and richer by standing in the shoes of our patients.

I have connected to many staff members in different locations in the last few weeks. I've shared my passion, my purpose. Now I want your story. Tell me why you chose to work at a cancer center, at this cancer center? What do you hope to accomplish each day? Why? What do you find most fulfilling about your work? Email me your thoughts at I will gather our stories together in a way that we can all read them, as a reminder, as a tribute to the significance of our organization's mission and purpose. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

—Jeff O'Brien, VP Cancer Services

Esophageal staff

Members of the esophageal cancer care team mix with patients at social event this past fall aimed to foster supportive peer partnerships.

Thoracic Surgery Wins Care Path Award

Norris Cotton Cancer Center's CTOP team won the Department of Surgery's second annual Care Path Award on November 28. The $25,000-award, presented by D-H CEO and President Dr. Jim Weinstein, was given to Thoracic Surgery for the care path they developed for their esophageal cancer patients.

"This was truly a team effort," said oncologist Konstantin Dragnev, MD, who accepted the award on behalf of Thoracic Surgery. "Esophageal cancer is not a disease that a single specialty, no matter how good you are, can treat. It really requires a multi-disciplinary approach. A lot of the suggestions for improvements in care came from our patients and their families."

Led by Cherie Erkmen, MD, the team also included: Anne McGowan, PA, Marcia Lowes, Betsy Maislen, APRN, Kathryn Abraham, RN, Ellen Parker, RN, Melissa Friedman, and Wendy Oliver. Erkmen plans to use the money to establish a patient network, which will allow patients to connect with each other for support and also provide patient education materials.

An expert panel from TDI judged the submissions. The care paths were evaluated on five criteria areas including: evidence-based guidelines, policies and/or evidence reviews, the number of patients that would benefit, the potential for better health outcomes, the ability to implement, and whether it could lower cost of care.

Bone Marrow Biopsies Moving to OSC

Beginning in January, NCCC will perform bone marrow biopsies at the D-H Outpatient Surgery Center at 36 LaHaye Drive, where patients will benefit from increased privacy, a dedicated treatment team, and more flexible scheduling. Thank you for helping to make the transition smooth for staff, patients, and families.

SYNERGY Clinical Research Unit moves to 4M

Describing the new space as "perfect," William Rigby, MD, medical director for the SYNERGY Clinical Research Unit (CRU), is enthusiastic about its move to the Faulkner Building's 4M space at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Right now, the CRU's functions and projects are scattered throughout DHMC, but the 4M location, which the CRU will fully occupy in early 2013, brings the Unit's endeavors into one place and benefits this important program in several ways, as Dr. Rigby notes:

"Having a dedicated space will enhance patient safety and increase the rigor of our studies. We'll be able to offer an array of activities – for example, infusion, patient analysis, and storage and shipping of biological samples – much more efficiently than we can now. And the location is ideal, right next to the parking garage. Patients who come in for clinical trials, some of whom visit us frequently, won't have to go far from their car to get to their appointments."

Dr. Rigby explains that the mission of the CRU is to ensure the highest level of scientific rigor in clinical trials while guaranteeing patient safety. "Basically, we're designed to facilitate the highest quality of clinical research at DHMC," he says.

New Year. New You

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Employees
The winter fitness schedule gets underway on Monday, January 7. Try gentle yoga or Pilates at lunchtime or end your day with a cardio class. Email or call 650-5900 for a winter schedule or to purchase a 10-class punch card for $10.

Runners Weight Watchers @ Work is hosting three free winter open houses on 1/10, 2/14, and 3/14 from 12-12:45 pm in the fitness class space on level 5 of the Faulkner building. Come by to see how Weight Watchers can help you discover a healthier lifestyle.

Ready to quit smoking? Need help with stress? Having trouble sleeping? Call 650-5900 to schedule an appointment for health coaching.

Dartmouth College Employees
For benefit eligible Dartmouth College Employees it is easier than ever to improve your health and fitness. Check out the Wellness at Dartmouth website at Book your 15-minute biometric screening now for:

  • Jan 22nd Alumni Hall
  • Jan 24th Occom Commons
  • Jan 29th DHMC
  • Feb 6th Centerra
Nurse taking blood pressure

Start the year off on the right foot with a biometric health screening and a set of personalized wellness goals.

A Biometric Screening will help you learn about your specific health risk factors. Screenings will be done by Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Live Well Work Well team and include:

  • Resting Blood Pressure, both systolic and diastolic
  • Blood Glucose Level (fasting or non-fasting)— "finger prick" method
  • Lipid Profile, including total cholesterol and HDL— "finger prick" method
  • Total Body Mass Index Calculation (height-to-weight ratio)
  • Waist Circumference Measurement

All Dartmouth College employees are eligible for a screening. Benefits eligible employees receive a $50 incentive for completing a biometric screening through payroll.

You can also work with a Health Coach to set your own health and wellness goals. A $50 incentive is available after you complete two coaching sessions.

Beginning in January, Dartmouth College will offer an individual health assessment through the Cigna website. If you spend 15-20 minutes answering questions about your health you may be eligible for a $100 incentive. Based on information about your diet, activity, stress, and other factors you will receive tailored recommendations about your health and guidance in setting goals.

Your year for savings?

No matter what lifestyle you hope to have in retirement, planning and saving are crucial to achieving your goal. The sooner you begin to put money aside, the sooner your money will start working for you. Hear a range of employees talk about the importance of saving for retirement. Not yet enrolled in a retirement plan? Visit one of the links below to see how you can start this year out with a convenient, tax-deferred plan.

College employees, visit here to learn about retirement savings plans:

D-H employees, visit here to learn about retirement savings plans:

American Cancer Society (ACS) Institutional Research Grants

Early career investigators who need pilot data should consider applying for an Institutional Research Grant this month. Eligible applicants must not have received prior R01 support from the NIH (or comparable support from NSF, ACS), unless an initial grant was not renewed. They must not hold an academic rank above Assistant Professor. Research associates, instructors, and postdoctoral fellows also are not eligible.

Up to $30,000 may be requested. The award may not be used to augment programs already funded within a laboratory or group. Download the application (DOCX), complete it, and then email it to You will receive a return email stating that your application has been received. If you have any questions, contact Richard Lucius at or (603) 653-3636. Applications are due no later than January 25, 2013, and will be reviewed for funding priority by the local ACS/IRG Review Committee.

Upcoming Events of Note
Get Set to Prouty

The Prouty staff and committee volunteers work year-round to keep The Prouty fresh, fun, and safe. This year The Prouty will take place on Saturday, July 13, 2013. Believe it or not, the Prouty website ( will go live mid-January. Debuting this year will be a new Prouty event, a new route, and several route tweaks – so keep an eye out for the Prouty website going live with all the details on what’s new this year.