by Dr. William R. Harvey
Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute
Groundbreaking Ceremony Remarks
Monday, July 23, 2007 @ 9:30 A.M.
Welcome to this historic groundbreaking for Hampton University’s proton beam cancer treatment research and technology center. Our center has already been awarded a certificate of public need and is the only one of its kind in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic States.
There are only five proton centers in our entire nation. Each and every one of the other five is a flagship facility for the absolutely best technology currently available to fight cancer. The technology available at the Hampton center will make it an unparalleled hub for cancer treatment, research, and technology. It will also bring extraordinarily positive attention to our state like no other healthcare investment can.
Proton treatment is unique, starting with the fact that the beam can be configured to the exact dimension of the diseased tissue and penetrate more deeply than standard radiation. This type of therapy produces little or no side effects because it does less damage to neighboring tissues. In prostate cancer, for an example, since the beam can be configured to the exact dimension of the diseased tumor, thereby reducing severe side effects of urinary frequency, rectal bleeding, sexual dysfunction, and incontinence. Hampton’s center will concentrate about 65% of its efforts on prostate therapy with the other 35% divided between breast, lung, liver, eye, and pediatrics.
There is no disputing the science of proton beam therapy. It is non-invasive and does not carry the side effects of other treatments-such as pain, nausea, and hair loss, which are especially devastating to young children.
You might ask yourself, why is it so important to bring proton beam therapy to Virginia at this time. Let me give you the facts and then I hope you can see why I believe everybody in Virginia ought to be as passionate about helping with this venture as I am.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute, one out of every three Virginians will develop some form of cancer during his or her lifetime. Did you hear what I said? One out of three Virginians will develop cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Virginia. Hampton Roads leads the nation in prostate cancer deaths. Chesapeake, Virginia ranks number one when compared to other cities in colon cancer deaths.
Another important factor that should not be overlooked deals with minority disparity issues. As bad as the prostate cancer death rate is for the entire population, prostate cancer incidence rate is on average 59% higher in black men than in white men. And the death rate from prostate cancer is 2.4 times higher in black men than in white men. The Virginia Cancer Registry states that, “. . . the disparity in incidence rates betweens blacks and whites was greater in Virginia than in the nation as a whole.” Greater in Virginia than the nation as a whole.
That’s why I firmly believe that everybody in a position of authority ought to do everything that they can to support this fight against such a terrible disease. But let me go on. Black women experience higher death rates from breast cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. In Virginia, black women are 2% above the norm for breast cancer death rates than the nation as a whole.
Another salient fact to remember is that the new technology that is being brought into the state is not duplicated anywhere in the Commonwealth-not at any other university, at any other hospitality, at any other stand alone center. The proton cancer treatment center is unparalleled in Virginia and will not compete with, but compliment other cancer centers in the state. It provides all or our citizens-black and white, young and old, men and women, another modality in fighting that dreaded disease cancer.
In addition to the unparalleled, improved health care facilitated by this center, it will be an economic driver for the region and the state. No existing cancer center will attract new patients from other states and other countries to Virginia as this center surely will. This is no small upgrade; it represents a revolution in cancer treatment and science.
Once we get fully operational, our expectation is to see approximately 125 patients a day. Depending on their tumors, our patients will be getting treatment from five to ten weeks in duration. In addition to Virginians, many of these people will be coming from outside of the state. For an example, at Mass General’s proton center, 50% of their patients come from outside the state of Massachusetts. At Loma Linda University, 70% of their patients come from outside of southern California. Whether coming from far or near, usually a spouse or a love one will accompany the patient. Additionally, during the duration of their treatment there will be anywhere from five to ten visitors for a period of a few days to a few weeks to the area. Once in the area, all of these people will staying mainly in hotels, eating in restaurants, shopping in the malls, going to the movies, or incurring other expenses. Therefore, as one can readily see, and as is the case in other areas where there are proton centers, the Hampton University proton center will have a tremendous economic impact.
Finally, let me say that no one is immune from cancer. All of us know someone who has had cancer. It may be a family member, a neighbor, a friend, a colleague, or ourselves. Because of cancer, Virginians are suffering and black Virginians are suffering disproportionately due to health disparities. Many of you in the audience today and across Virginia understand and get it. Unfortunately, there are still those who for whatever the reason do not get it. To those who do not understand, we’ve got to continue to educate and help them-and help them comprehend that an investment in this kind of modality for fighting that dreaded disease might just be the most important thing that they do in their lifetimes.
To those of you who do get it-I want to give you my sincere thanks. The people on the list who do get it Is a long one. Let me start with the media who have been extraordinarily supportive. The Daily Press, for an example, has run several long, detailed articles giving information and letting their readers know how important this new modality is. The Daily Press also had a very supportive editorial, which in effect called for the political powers in Richmond to get behind this effort.
On Saturday, July 20, 2007, my wife and I attended a national conference in Norfolk with approximately 400 people in attendance. And because of the excellent article on our cancer fighting efforts which appeared in the Saturday edition of the Virginian Pilot, at least 100 of the attendees personally spoke to me very positively about our project. Two weeks ago, the Hampton Roads Health Journal published a very thorough analysis of our efforts as well. The Richmond Free Press intends to do a major article on our proton therapy cancer treatment center in its next week’s edition. These kinds of informative news articles keep our fight before the public and policymakers.
Our fight must be kept before the public because how can anyone be serious about making healthcare a priority and not support something that is going to ease human misery and save lives.
For your information, and by way of comparison, the state legislatures in other states where there is a proton facility have supported to the tune of at least 10 million dollars. In Florida, the amount that was provided was 11 million dollars. I know that our governmental officials are as enlightened as those in the states of Florida, Indiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, to name just a few. Therefore, I hope, and although I know you are not suppose to mix religion and politics, I also pray that these fine ladies and gentlemen who make up our executive and legislative branches of state government, will find a way to overcome frivolous opposition and support this center to the tune of 10 million dollars. I have asked the appropriation bodies to do this and indicated that it can be done over a 1, 2, 3, or 4 year period.
There are others to thank, however. In Hampton, Mayor Kearney, the city council, Mr. Eason and the economic development arm, and the Industrial Development Authority have made a tremendous investment by donating five and a half acres of land to this venture. Hampton is a progressive city with good leadership in its mayor, city council, and economic development arm. They see, as I do, that their investment will pay dividends many times over.
To the physicians, hospitals, and other health professionals and scholars, who have encouraged me and shared their expertise, I thank you very much. Sentara has already made a multi-million dollar commitment. Hopefully, the other hospitals will see the benefits of partnering with us. To the Hampton University team-Drs. Keppel, Jarrett, and Jamison; Ms. Spells, Ms. Crawford, and Atty. Faye Hardy Lucas; our wonderful medical director, Dr. Christopher Sinesi-thank you for your long hours, for your expertise, and for your passion. To my chief financial advisors-Mr. Lou Haddad, Mr. John Babb, and Mr. Chris Harvey, you should know that we would not be where we are today without you. Your level of analysis and understanding helped us immensely. My gracious thanks to the Hampton University Board of Trustees who have been involved in this journey all the way. You exercised your oversight, analysis and helpfulness in a manner that very few Boards in this country would have had the capability to do.
To so many others, Len Artz, Chris Chandler, the witnesses that provided testimony before the regulatory agencies when we were getting our certificate of public need, to Bob Marckini and the Brothers of the Balloon, VOA Architects, and literally hundreds of people who have written and/or encouraged me-you have my profound thanks and respect. To Congressman Scott who is spearheading a 10 million dollar effort on our behalf, I thank you. Bobby, you have always been there. To Delegate Mayme BaCote who introduces legislation for 10 million dollars and Delegate Phil Hamilton who proposed 2½ million dollars and Senator Bennie Lambert who asked for 5 million, please know how much your efforts were appreciated. I know that you will keep the faith at the next legislative session and hopefully, we can persuade your elected colleagues to support the citizens in their districts who would benefit greatly from this new, exciting and technologically advanced cancer disease fighter.
I am sure that I have missed thanking someone-but please charge that to my head not my heart. The one person who I cannot forget to thank enough is my wife of 41 years, Mrs. Norma Harvey. She knows perhaps more than any body else that for the last three years I have lived with this vision for at least five or six hours a day. Not only does she know this, but she’s been extraordinarily supportive. Thank you darling!
Ladies and gentlemen, this groundbreaking ceremony is a major step, a monumental occasion, and a great day for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the entire nation. It is abundantly clear to me that our efforts will ease human misery and save lives. Therefore, let’s get on with it!