Cancer center earns national accreditation

Phil Castle, The Business Times

JoAnne Virgilio

Dr. Jonathan King would like nothing more than to have to find another line of work. That would mean cancer no longer poses a threat and his expertise as a medical oncologist is no longer needed.

While there’s not a yet a cure, progress continues on treating various types of cancer, King said.

That includes the designation of Grand Valley Oncology as an accredited cancer center, he said. “We can have world-class cancer care in the Grand Valley.”

King was among the physicians and officials who spoke at a news conference announcing the designation by the Commission on Cancer, a program of the American College of Surgeons.

“We are extremely proud of what Grand Valley Oncology has become,” said Chris Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital.

Dr. Thomas Tobin, chief medical officer at Community Hospital, agreed. “This brings a quality of care that wasn’t here before.”

The hospital joined with Dr. JoAnne Virgilio and other physicians five years ago to open the cancer treatment center.

Virgilio, medical director of the center, said in a news release the designation represents the culmination of years of work and an ongoing commitment to quality care. “When we joined Community Hospital in 2014, we knew we wanted to build Grand Valley Oncology as the premier cancer center on the Western Slope.”

The Commission on Cancer offers the only national accreditation program recognizing cancer centers for their commitment to providing high-quality care. To earn accreditation, a cancer program must meet 34 quality care standards and undergo evaluation every three years.

The accreditation also recognizes a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer that involves medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, surgeons and other care providers. “It has been a team effort,” King said. “Cancer care is a team sport.”

The accreditation program provides a framework for Grand Valley Oncology to continue to improve cancer care through prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation programs. Patients also have access to clinical trials and new treatments as well as a range of other services.

Clinical trials are offered to cancer patients in Western Colorado through a collaborative effort between Grand Valley Oncology and Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. A monthly telemedicine clinic is available at Grand Valley Oncology that connects blood and marrow transplant patients with doctors at the institute.

Dr. Jonathan Frandsen, a radiation oncologist at Grand Valley Oncology, said the center offers still other programs and state-of-the-art equipment. The accreditation confirms the quality of that care for patients seeking treatment, he said.

King said cancer remains the real competition for the center, one he said he’s optimistic can be beaten. “I would love to have to find another job.”