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Toby's Take: A Change in Plans

People gathered in Proton Therapy treatment area learning about the importance of this life-changing treatment.

April 20, 2022

The best laid plans … are generally the ones that don’t work out best. Said another way, life is what happens to you while you’re making plans.

Our events team at The University of Kansas Health System had it all planned out: A reception for donors, friends, the KU Advancement Board, even a Baseball Hall of Famer at a tent outside the new Proton Therapy Center on our Main Campus in Kansas City, Kansas. The center is booking patients now and will start treating with proton therapy in May.

The proton beam is pencil-thin, a description I’ve used dozens of times as a newbie to healthcare. It can kill a cancerous tumor without damaging the surrounding tissue. Revolutionary. A fabulous breakthrough – especially for children or patients with cancers in hard-to-get-to areas – that can significantly reduce side effects of radiation.

It’s also terribly effective at treating cancers. Many years ago, the brain trust surrounding the health system’s cancer patient care services at The University of Kansas Cancer Center knew that bringing proton therapy to our campus would be a game-changer. We’d been living in a “Proton Desert.” That means patients who could benefit from proton therapy would have to drive long distances to receive treatment.

As we’ve said many times concerning the cancer center’s National Cancer Institute designation, we want people to know they generally don’t have to travel to get world-class treatment. To Mayo or MD Anderson or other big-named places. But we didn’t have proton therapy until now. That was cause for celebration.

So, our events team planned a celebration fit for the new facility. Invitees (including our board of directors and Royals great George Brett) would tour the proton center and enjoy conversation, refreshments and comments from President and CEO Bob Page under a tent right next to it on the southwest corner of our campus.

That was Plan A. We didn’t even get to use Plan B.

The team had everything down to the minute, every detail planned out, that they were able to adjust and not miss a beat.

On to Plan C

Days ahead, a threat of rain had popped up in the “long-ranger,” as meteorologists like to call the long-range forecast. But it would certainly hold off until nighttime. This being the Midwest, only a few storms really sneak up. The rest of them “blow in” by blowing all day. And the strong winds ahead of a cold front started in earnest hours before the scheduled reception.

Thankfully, that gave our team plenty of time to bypass Plan B (any good event planner has a rain plan; this wasn’t just rain) and right on to C. Within a few hours, Jessica Peak and Laura Hamilton had arranged a venue change to the north side of campus, called in their teammates Jaclyn Johnson and Deanna Culver, called the caterer, called everyone on the invite list, arranged shuttles to the proton center and managed to look like they were polishing up Plan A minutes before the doors opened. In other words, had you not known, you’d have never been the wiser.

This got me thinking that night after I got to blow in (so to speak) late in the afternoon after all the hubbub. You have to be really organized to change everything on the fly and not have it crumble like a house of cards. Or that silly tent.

It was really very impressive.

The team had everything down to the minute, every detail planned out, that they were able to adjust and not miss a beat.

These people at The University of Kansas Health System plan, execute, pivot and improve every day. They do it when treating patients, making meals, keeping the place running and putting on events. You can bet the caregivers who will operate this gigantic proton machine will have to anticipate changes to their original plans. And patients and families will benefit because that flexibility will save many lives in the process.

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