Executive Director Message

StuartKlein.pngProton therapy for children with cancer can mean the difference between a life with severe challenges and one with minimal treatment side effects. Since day one, we have created a specialized pediatric proton therapy team with people who are highly trained and skilled in treating children. The program has grown during our first 10 years to be the largest of its kind worldwide, treating 25 to 30 children per day.

This month we are in the process of renovating our pediatric recovery room to enhance the healing environment. It is also the time of year we have an annual visit from “Santa Joe,” a treasured gift from proton alumnus Joe McGee that always brings cheer to our children and staff. Soon we will be unveiling a new iPad® app just for children being treated here. These extras are possible through the generosity of individuals, many of whom are proton alumni. During this gift-giving season, please consider making a gift to our pediatric program. Your donation will make a significant difference in the life of a child who has cancer.

Best wishes to you and your loved ones for a happy holiday season.

Stuart L. Klein

Executive Director

Melissa Burhans, The Heart of Third & Main

By Theresa Edwards Makrush

Melissa Burhans adorns her office with greeting cards from her proton friends.

People from all walks of life find a home away from home at Third & Main, a short-term patient housing complex in Jacksonville’s historic Springfield community. Fully equipped with every modern convenience, the 35-unit complex is within two miles of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, an easy commute to daily treatment. Residents are almost all proton therapy patients and quickly become neighbors who look out for each other, socialize together and often become lifelong friends after their six- to eight-week stay.

The reason Third & Main quickly feels like home, residents say, is because of the property manager Melissa Burhans. “She’s got a really dynamic personality. The way she treats people, she’s interested in their lives. She has a passion for helping people,” said Scott Drosos of The Villages, Fla., who stayed at the apartments while he was having proton therapy for prostate cancer.

In fact, helping people and creating a comfortable, welcoming place for them, Melissa says, is the best part of her job. “That’s the most important part of my job is the personal connections,” she said. “If it means coming in a little early or staying late to do paperwork I don’t mind. As long as I have time to sit and have morning coffee and pastries with people and get to know them and introduce them to other people who have the same interests, that’s what’s most important.”

If it feels to patients like Third & Main is part of the Institute, that’s intentional. Melissa said she takes her cue from watching Bradlee Robbert, patient services director at the Institute, and the way he interacts with people in the lobby and during the Wednesday patient luncheons at the Institute. “Even though we’re separate organizations, we partner with the Institute so that the experience meshes,” she said.

According to Judy Taylor Holland, community outreach coordinator at the Institute, Melissa has matched the experience successfully. “Melissa is far more than a property manager. Her devotion to our patients and their comfort is demonstrated in the many small and large deeds she takes on for our patients,” Judy said. “She has accompanied many who have needed a trip to the grocery store for supplies in helping to set up their new home. Melissa is known to offer extra activities for patients and their families like game nights, art walks and special dinners. Most recently, she cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 40 residents of Third & Main, knowing that they would be away from home, family and friends during the holiday. Christmas will be a repeat with her adding toys for the children collected through her efforts with the community and Toys for Tots.”

Judy went on to say, “Wednesday patient lunches always include a patient testimonial about the Third & Main experience. By the time these individuals leave our Institute, Melissa has found a place in their hearts that will last for a very long time.”

There are many patients who consider Melissa their friend and stay in touch with her, including Scott Drosos. He has invited Melissa and many of the other friends he made while at the Institute to attend his wedding next April. “I was single, going through cancer alone. If it wasn’t for Melissa I would never have gotten as involved as I did and met so many people and made so many friends. That’s what made the difference for me.”

Recovery Room Renovation Is Underway

From staff

Soon the pediatric recovery room will have a new look. This is a “before” photo.

Thanks to philanthropic support, we are renovating our Pediatric Recovery Room to reflect the exceptional level of care we provide. The room is a vital bridge in the treatment continuum, and the more we can offer in the way of a soothing, peaceful environment, the faster our patients will recover. We will transform the room into a space that provides optimal comfort and privacy for our precious children and their families. The renovations will dramatically improve privacy and comfort, with soothing colors, a more dynamic layout and visual attractions such as LED lighting, video screens and other technology.

“We’re very grateful to our generous donors for their gifts that are making the renovation possible,” said Stuart Klein, executive director.

Golf Wrap-Up

By Judy Taylor Holland, co-chair

Bright and early on Monday morning, November 14, 162 eager golfers teed off on both the Slammer & Squire and King & Bear courses located within the World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla. This 12th year for the golf tournament is thankfully a wrap although it was not without a major interruption. 

One foursome among many (l-r) Barbara Fryefield, Cathy Klein, Stuart Klein, Dr. Roi Dagan

On Friday, October 7th, the weekend of the planned tournament date, Jacksonville was in the  pathway of Hurricane Matthew. Luckily we were spared a direct hit, and while some flooding and wind damage occurred along the coast, our facility made it through just fine. This was the first time in the history of the tournament that weather was a critical factor and we might not be able to execute the tournament as planned. How could we complete 2016, the year we would celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Institute, without the much-anticipated golf tournament?

After some intense debate and conversations with our sponsors, the 12th Annual Play Golf. Fight Cancer.® Classic was rescheduled. Unlike the previous year where a dinner preceded golf on the night before, it would be a one-day event of golf, silent auction and recognition of our 10-year anniversary.

Celebrating a good shot.

During the awards reception following play, Robert Nelson, a proton alum, shared his experience as a prostate cancer survivor. Jeff Prosser, 1010XL sports radio and a graduate of the University of Florida, generously volunteered his time to become our master of ceremonies for the afternoon. There was plenty of food and fun stories of the morning on the greens. Obviously, it was pretty exciting to shoot a golf ball with an air cannon 280 – 320 yards for an opportunity to win a free vacation trip for closest to the pin.

The Play Golf. Fight Cancer. Classic was created over a decade ago specifically to fund the continuous research that is being conducted by the medical staff. Happily, the 2016 tournament turned out to be a banner year with net earnings of over $200,000 dedicated to our clinical research program.

Taking aim with an air cannon golf ball launcher.

We would like to thank and recognize our anniversary sponsors, Dot Decimal, IBA and the Shepherd Agency. Not only have they contributed to this enjoyable event, they have also helped us become the world-leading proton center we are today. Thanks also to the many other supporting and dedicated sponsors and a hard-working and talented golf committee: Stuart Klein, Dr. Nancy Mendenhall, Melissa Burhans, Molly Dworkin, Jenna Bryan Hobkirk, Bradlee Robbert, Nancy Seely (co-chair), Jason Smith, Melissa Spearman, Ashley Williams, Buzzy Northen and Laura Press.

About This Newsletter

The Precision Newsletter is an electronic-only publication that is distributed by email. Each issue is sent monthly to patients, alumni patients and friends of the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. As the official newsletter of the Institute, the content is compiled and prepared by our communications representative and approved by the editor Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Special bulletin newsletters may occasionally be prepared when timely topics and new developments in proton therapy occur. If you would like to send a Letter to the Editor, please click here.


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Knowing how you are feeling during and after treatment is essential to providing you the best care possible and contributes to the care of future patients.