Patient Spotlight: Beth Klein, President, IBA Proton Therapy North America

BethKlein.jpgBy Theresa Edwards Makrush

Beth Klein had worked for decades at GE Health Care and became a GE Officer, in the area of medical imaging devices, including nuclear medicine and positron emission tomography, or PET, where machines use radioactive tracers to detect disease. “I became passionate about oncology and wanted to get closer to making a difference in people’s lives, which eventually led me to IBA and proton therapy,” said Klein.

Today she is president of IBA Proton Therapy, Inc., based in Reston, Va., with responsibility for IBA’s North American operations, and has been with the company for nine years. “I am blessed to be in a hi-tech, hi-touch business where we are working together with our customers and their patients to grow the market so that we can help even more cancer patients have a better quality of life during and post treatment,” said Klein.

IBA has installed proton therapy systems in more than half of all operating facilities worldwide. More than 50,000 patients have been treated on IBA systems; that’s more than all competitive systems combined. The UF Health Proton Therapy Institute was the first clinical system installed in the United States by IBA, after the prototype at Massachusetts General Hospital. The close working relationship that IBA has with the Institute has propelled the field of proton therapy forward. IBA engineers are on-site 24 hours, every day of the week, to ensure that the system is available and operating at maximum performance for patient treatment.

Last year, when Klein’s symptoms of hearing loss and acute tinnitus were linked to an acoustic neuroma, a rare benign tumor of the nerve sheath that lies along the acoustic nerve, she knew proton therapy could be the best possible treatment. In consultation with her doctors, she ruled out surgery, conventional radiation, or doing nothing because of the potential for unpleasant or serious side effects, both short and long term. Klein also wanted to make sure she could fully enjoy her future retirement years and not worry about the risk of secondary cancers down the road.

She turned to the physicians she knew and trusted at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. “I chose UFHPTI because it offers an exceptional combination of clinical expertise and outstanding patient care,” she said. “After having gone through treatment, I am convinced that patient care is an important differentiator in outcomes. It is difficult to measure, but I believe that peace of mind and a caring, respectful, supportive environment plays a key role in healing.”

The following is excerpted from an email interview in which Klein describes more about her unique perspective as a proton therapy “insider” and now as a proton therapy patient.

Q&A with Beth Klein, president, IBA Proton Therapy North America

Q: What has your experience of proton therapy been like?

A: I have loved my time here. The entire team has been nothing short of extraordinary. Everyone on the UFHPTI team cares about you as the patient, from the parking lot attendant and receptionists to the executive team operating the center. The physician, therapist and nursing teams are ROCK STARS! They are smart, caring and fun to be with. It sounds hard to believe but I actually looked forward to my daily treatment because of them! I watched them with other patients, especially the children being treated, and was amazed at how skilled they are at what they do. As an aside, the Jacksonville area has been a pleasant surprise. You can't beat the weather and there is a lot of diversity in things to do.

Q: How is treatment impacting your everyday activities?

A: One of my main reasons for choosing proton therapy is that the side effects during treatment are minimal compared to other treatments. I continued to work full time while being treated. I also was able to exercise every day and played tennis three times a week.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer or to someone who is considering having proton therapy?

A: As a patient, it is important to do extensive research on your options before you decide what course is right for you. Don’t assume that your physician is aware of all of the options -- many times they refer you to what they know or have access to versus what they should know or perhaps don’t have access to. Proton therapy is not recommended for every cancer but studies indicate that 20-30% of patients who need radiation therapy could benefit from proton therapy. It’s important to ask the question, and if you are not comfortable with the answer, I would call the intake center at UFHPTI and ask them. They will connect you with a physician who has the experience and access to both conventional radiation therapy and proton therapy — so they are not biased. They will help you make an objective decision weighing the benefits and downsides to different approaches.

Q: What do you wish you had known before your treatment?

A: I wish that I would have known how easy it was going to be to go through treatment — it would have lowered my anxiety in the weeks before treatment. Even though I knew about the technology, I didn't have an appreciation for patient anxiety until I was a patient. Fortunately, the UFHPTI team was there to ease me through it. My anxiety was gone after the first treatment.

Q: Are there things you have learned as a patient that you’ll use in your work? Any suggestions for improvement you will give to others at your company?

A: Absolutely. As someone who works for IBA, the company that develops this technology, I wanted to use my treatment as an opportunity to learn how proton therapy centers operate from the inside out. As the world leader in proton therapy, we do a lot of things right, starting first and foremost with ensuring that the system is up and running most of the time so that every patient can be treated with minimal disruption to the schedule. I want to recognize the outstanding efforts of IBA’s service operations team at Jacksonville for all that they do behind the scenes to keep our system running reliably. They work 24X7 to ensure that our technology is optimized and available for patient treatment.

From a technology standpoint, IBA’s system is the most precise in the industry so I took comfort in knowing that our proton therapy system was treating the area that needed to be treated and not healthy tissue. That said, there are ways that we can make the system more user friendly for the therapists — making their jobs easier and improving operational efficiencies. From a patient perspective, I would like our development team to look for ways to reduce the noises a patient hears during treatment and perhaps find ways to make the table more comfortable. Fabric softener in the sheets does not cut it!

Q: What is on the horizon for IBA and proton therapy? What do you see for the future of proton therapy?

A: Our mission at IBA is to make proton therapy accessible to every cancer patient who can benefit from it. As I mentioned earlier, approximately 20-30% of all cancer patients who require radiation treatment could benefit from proton therapy. Today that actual number treated with proton therapy is less than 1%, so we have a long way to go to increase the awareness of the medical and patient community about the significant benefit of this powerful technology over other treatment alternatives. To move the needle on that measure, we are partnered with expert clinicians, such as the team here at UFHPTI, to research, expand and publish the studies which demonstrate those benefits. We are also looking for ways to engage the patient community, who are wonderful advocates for our technology, in getting the message out. I hope that every patient will become a proton therapy ambassador going forward and spread the word about this treatment option within their community.

As for the future, I am happy to share that the team at UFHPTI is currently partnered with IBA on upgrading their technology to include the latest state-of-the-art imaging and treatment modes. They will continue to be one of the most advanced proton therapy centers in the world.

Joy Frank – Oncology Nurse

JoyFrank.jpgBy Theresa Edwards Makrush

Positive energy radiates from Joy Frank, RN. It’s a quality her patients and colleagues appreciate. This, combined with her decades of experience and certifications in oncology nursing and breast health, is what her patients and coworkers value.

“She’s the kind of nurse I’d want to take care of me,” said Dr. William Mendenhall, professor, UF department of radiation oncology. They’ve worked together for decades, starting out in the 1980s in Gainesville. “She’s available, competent and cheerfully optimistic.”

For the past six years, Joy has worked at the proton therapy institute, first with prostate patients and now with breast cancer patients. Her special training in breast health has benefited proton patients as they manage side effects, especially skin care in the area being treated.

“Joy has provided expertise to the team with her many years working in radiation oncology and research,” said Gail Sarto, RN, director of adult nursing. “She developed teaching tools for the staff to assure our patients with breast cancer have the right information in the right format. She worked with a team of nurses who developed the wound care protocols and this has greatly benefitted our patients affected by breast cancer.”

As Joy begins to transition to her retirement years, working part time since last July, she looked back on her career as a radiation oncology nurse. She recalled her on-the-job training as a radiation oncology nurse, learning how to do the treatments with the cobalt radiation machine. There were no radiation therapists at that time and nurses administered the daily treatments. As the technology has evolved, Joy said each advance has improved radiation therapy for patients.

“With proton therapy,” she said, “you can target the tumor more precisely without treating organs at risk. This means better tumor control and fewer late and acute side effects.” As an example she pointed to a recent study published by Dr. Julie Bradley, assistant professor, UF department of radiation oncology, that breast cancer patients, especially those with left-sided breast cancer, can be treated effectively with protons without any radiation dose to the heart and on average 50% less dose to the lungs than conventional radiation.

While she is making plans to retire, she said she will miss her patients. “That’s one of the hardest things I’ll have when leaving is not having the contact with all the patients. You develop a relationship with patients. We’re always in contact. Whenever a patient has an issue or something they’re not sure about, they call us. They know they can call us anytime. They develop that relationship with you.”

Pediatric Recovery Room Completed

By Theresa Edwards Makrush

Blue skies above and gently curving ribbons of blues and greens on the walls and floor welcome our youngest patients in the newly renovated recovery room. It is a serene, private oasis designed to calm the senses as families and the medical team tend to their children who are waking from anesthesia.

At the same time the environment welcomes imaginative play as children arrive and settle in for their daily proton therapy. A nook filled with toys and games allows patients, siblings and parents to relax and have fun together.

“The soft lighting and soothing color palette and design has transformed the space that was formerly sterile and clinical into a tranquil area that is child friendly, welcoming and calming,” said Amy Sapp, director of pediatric nursing. “The space has a positive impact on both the medical and psychosocial well-being of the children and their families by decreasing anxiety and stress related to the various medical procedures encountered on a daily basis as well as providing an area for play and distraction.”

The $250,000 renovation was made possible through the generous support of many donors. “Thanks to all who contributed in large and small ways through the UFHPTI For the Children Fund. And thanks to our volunteers, many who are alumni patients, who have championed this fundraising effort,” said Stuart Klein, executive director.

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The pediatric program has many ongoing needs in order to maintain the exceptional level of care that has made it one of the largest pediatric proton therapy programs in the world. To make a donation to the pediatric program, click here. Or contact Molly Dworkin, director of development, mdworkin@floridaproton.org

Executive Director Message

StuartKlein.pngThe safety measures we have in place for our staff and patients is one of the reasons why we are among the few proton therapy centers accredited in radiation oncology by the American College of Radiology. From our physics department staff members who carefully calculate treatment plans and calibrate the equipment to our radiation therapists who take extra training for pediatric life support, each contributes to our commitment to safety. 

Stuart L. Klein

Executive Director

Survivor Spotlight: Carlotta and Dick Cooley

A married couple from Sarasota, Florida, was the first to have proton therapy at the same time. Now, eight years later, they are both cancer free. To see more of their remarkable story, watch below:

VTOC Is Now Mobile Friendly

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 12.45.28 PM.pngVTOC (Vision Tree Optimal CareTM) access is even easier when you add the web app to your tablet or smartphone. Think of VTOC as your virtual doctor’s office where you can view and upload your records, see reminders, and exchange messages with your UF Health Proton Therapy Institute medical team all in a secure environment.

The VTOC web app is compatible with both Apple and Android mobile devices. To add the VTOC web app to your home screen, follow the instructions for the type of mobile device you have.

 

PALS-Certified Radiation Therapists Raise the Bar

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UF Health Proton Therapy Institute radiation therapists are highly skilled medical professionals who are board certified and take continuing education classes to maintain state and national licensure. One of the many requirements to obtain the designation of a radiation therapist is they must become Basic Life Support (BLS) certified. BLS certification prepares an individual to administer CPR or other life-sustaining interventions in case a patient or coworker is nonresponsive. Recently, 15 of the Institute’s radiation therapists advanced their skills and added another layer of protection for pediatric patients by completing a 16-hour course in Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).

“We’re one of the largest pediatric proton centers in the world. Parents can rest assured that everyone who has direct contact with their child has advanced training,” said Trevor Fleming, director of technical services and manager of the radiation therapists. “Less than one percent of therapists in the U.S. are PALS certified.”

PALS certification is beneficial because there are differences in the way life support is administered to children versus adults. Having the knowledge and skills to intervene quickly in the event of an emergency can make a big impact in the patient’s outcome. “Understanding how to rapidly react in a moment of time could mean the difference for someone’s child,” said Fleming. “We feel we have added another layer of protection for our pediatric patients, strengthening an already incredible team of professionals here. It’s one more confidence-builder for parents whose children require our unique technology.”

Physicians and nurses are with patients as the first line of defense, and now, PALS-certified radiation therapists are an added safety net. “This is different than other proton centers. It’s one more step we’ve made to better the level of care here,” said Fleming.

Executive Director Message

StuartKlein.pngAs the first proton therapy center in the Southeast U.S., it is logical that we would have many “firsts.” We did not stop breaking new ground when we treated our first patient. Instead we have continually pushed ahead to develop and discover ways to best use proton therapy for the benefit of our patients. We share our experiences with other proton therapy providers and cancer specialists. We rely on the collaboration of many people and organizations in our community and worldwide to achieve a greater good. Whether we are publishing patient outcomes or developing new educational tools for children, our ultimate goal is to help patients today and in future generations become cancer-free with minimal to no side effects. 

Stuart L. Klein

Executive Director

Customized app, Proton U, will aid children with cancer treatment

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By staff

UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has a new teaching tool designed especially for children who need proton therapy, an advanced type of radiation treatment for cancer. Proton U is a customized app designed to aid children before proton therapy begins by familiarizing them with what to expect during treatment.

Children are often anxious and fearful of the unknown when it comes to their medical treatment. Studies show that we can reduce anxiety and teach coping skills to children through medical play, hands-on learning and pre-treatment tours. The app is a unique way to combine children’s natural curiosity and technology to improve the medical treatment experience. 

“We have had tremendous success with our child life program over the last six years, reducing the number of children between ages 5-7 who need daily sedation for treatment by 40 percent,” said Danny Indelicato, MD, Director of Pediatric Radiotherapy, UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, and Associate Professor, UF Department of Radiation Oncology. “Thanks to Kim Todd, Child Life Specialist, and the collaboration of Flagler College and the UF Department of Biomedical Engineering, we think the app will help us further reduce the number of children needing sedation. It will also serve as an educational introduction to proton therapy for all our young children, something they can download and review even before they travel to Jacksonville. We have also created Spanish and Norwegian language versions.”

Kim had the idea to develop an app for the iPad that patients could use with her during sessions and on their own at home. She contacted her alma mater, Flagler College, to ask for help, and they agreed to take on the project as a community service. More than 30 Flagler College students designed the graphic art for the interactive game/storybook written by Kim. Students volunteered to be the recorded voices of Jefferson, the Proton U mascot, and various medical team characters introduced throughout the game.

A UF Health Proton Therapy Institute patient with Microsoft contacts connected Kim with a programmer who initiated the app’s development, and a UF engineering faculty member Stephen Arce, PhD, programmed Proton U with music and animation features that brought the app to life. “I have been programming software and games for several years in my spare time, and this is a great opportunity to help do something bigger,” said Arce. “Making apps for kids to introduce and educate them about therapy is one part of the role software can play in medicine in the future. As devices get ‘smarter,’ we will see more emphasis on interactive software to help patients learn/participate and give physicians better information. There is also an opportunity for big data sciences as we collect and analyze statistics about patient care and move toward a quality-based healthcare system.”

The app design was recognized by the Florida Campus Compact Awards, winning second place in the statewide 2015 Campus Community Partnership category. The Florida Campus Compact is a network of about 60 colleges and universities in Florida who are committed to community service that enhances students’ education, workforce readiness and civic mindedness. The app design made the shortlist for an international recognition by the Interaction Design Association in its “Empowering” category for “helping people to do things they otherwise couldn’t do.”

Flowers: an art project benefiting cancer patients at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute

By staff

Red Flowers_0.jpgFlowers is a collection of drawings, paintings and collages created by UF Health Proton Therapy Institute cancer patients and their family and friends. The collection will be on display through January at Gallery 1037, located inside Reddi-Arts, 1037 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville.

The daily arts-and-crafts activities are part of the Institute’s Art in Medicine program. The free program enables participants to create art, regardless of experience level, and promotes feelings of well-being. Individual pieces in the Flowers exhibit are for sale. Your purchase of a unique artwork will help fund the Art in Medicine program, bringing comfort and cheer to cancer patients.

Blue Flowers_0.jpgA special reception for patients, caregivers, proton alumni and the public will take place at the gallery on January 26, 5-7 p.m.

The reception will feature

  • complimentary refreshments
  • handcrafted flower corsages available for a suggested donation of $5 each
  • framed art created by children and adults with cancer available for $100 each

All proceeds benefit the Art in Medicine program at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

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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.

 

Keep In Touch

It is easy to stay in touch with us online at floridaproton.org . Look at the top right corner of the homepage for Facebook , Twitter and YouTube icons, click and join us in the social media conversation. Also on the right side of the homepage there is a button for VTOC Patient Portal . Click here to open your secure account, view your records, complete clinical trial questionnaires and communicate with your nurse case manager.

 

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.