Strange Coincidence: When Cancer Strikes Hospital CEO

August 31, 2011
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I am just back from the Phoenix-metro area. It’s now the 5th largest in the United States and despite home foreclosures, there is still a feeling of growth in many areas. Gilbert, a nearby suburb, has expanded to over 200,000 people and a growing major medical center. I spent several days interviewing patients and staff about the soon-to-open, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. The hope is that by bringing MD Anderson’s world-renowned expertise, clinical trials and processes to this new center, cancer care around Phoenix and the southwest will be improved.

I am just back from the Phoenix-metro area. It’s now the 5th largest in the United States and despite home foreclosures, there is still a feeling of growth in many areas. Gilbert, a nearby suburb, has expanded to over 200,000 people and a growing major medical center. I spent several days interviewing patients and staff about the soon-to-open, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. The hope is that by bringing MD Anderson’s world-renowned expertise, clinical trials and processes to this new center, cancer care around Phoenix and the southwest will be improved. Look for my video interviews coming soon.

But, in the meantime, one interview stuck out for me; the one with the Banner Health President and CEO, Peter Fine. Peter is in his late 50s and is a health care industry professional who has been guiding Banner Health and its 23 hospitals well for over a decade. For the past several years, Peter has been strategizing the building of a major cancer center on one of his hospital campuses. Peter knew he would need a renowned partner to make it successful and three years ago he chose MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, consistently ranked as the nation’s #1 cancer center (and where I was treated in a leukemia clinical trial).

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Even before the partnership contract was inked, a strange thing happened. Peter found a swollen lymph node in his neck and it didn’t go away. It wasn’t the flu or a sore throat and he had a spot on his tongue. He was soon diagnosed with one of the most serious, disfiguring and often deadly cancers: head and neck cancer. After liking what he seen in Houston and with his life on the line, Peter put his trust in the people at MD Anderson.

In his video interview Peter speaks like a business leader. But as he described his surgery, chemo and weeks of aggressive radiation (he lost 40 pounds and had trouble eating) he became less analytical. He described the tough personal fight; the times when it was hard to go on, to overcome the doubts and to marshal the will to survive. Peter Fine is a leader. And with the full support of his wife, Rebecca, he was determined to control the cancer on his terms. He was successful.

Unlike many leaders or celebrities, Peter didn’t hide his diagnosis or the struggle he was going through. He came to work every day that he could. As they continued planning the new $110 million center, he was positive in his decision to partner with MD Anderson both from a business perspective but also having personally experienced exceptional quality of care.

Peter Fine, CEO, Banner Health

Today Peter is doing well and has fully recovered with the exception of a few hair follicles on his neck that were destroyed by the radiation. Peter jokes that it’s a bit of a blessing that makes shaving much faster. After all he has work to do!

The new Banner MD Anderson cancer center opens in just a few weeks and Peter will be one of the first patients for follow-up care.

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Peter Fine feels he has much to do as a knowledegable cancer survivor and health care leader to advance the fight against cancer while continuing to live as an example that more and more, we can win. Look for Peter’s story on video soon.

Wishing you and your family the best of health!

Andrew