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WVU Medicine Integration Brings Reinforcements to Wheeling Hospital in Battle Against Breast Cancer

File Photo - WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital

WHEELING — Dr. Jondavid Pollock, chair of radiation oncology at the WVU Cancer Institute at Wheeling Hospital, has practiced in Wheeling since 2000. He has been fighting against cancer, breast cancer included, long before Wheeling Hospital had been integrated into the WVU Medicine network.

That integration came in April. WVU Health System had been operating Wheeling Hospital since 2019, but earlier this year, the hospital joined the network in full.

Now that WVU Medicine and Wheeling Hospital are on the same team, both Pollock and Dr. Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, director of the WVU Cancer Institute, say that one of the biggest benefits that the integration has brought is a spirit of teamwork in the battle against breast cancer, a cancer that affects so many, from patients to their loved ones. That teamwork is just one of several ways that WVU Medicine’s presence has helped.

“If you were to ask me to pick out one thing that a tertiary facility like WVU has brought to Wheeling, it’s brought collegiality,” Pollock said. We reach out to our WVU colleagues. We have a wonderful working relationship with them in Morgantown.”

Both Pollock and Hazard-Jenkins believe WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital has a strong track record in treating cancer. Coming together under one banner has only strengthened it. One place where that has happened, Hazard-Jenkins said, is with access to all of WVU Medicine’s tumor boards.

Tumor boards are a discussion of each cancer patient, their needs, their treatment plans and how the disease could affect other aspects of patients’ lives. Those discussions include representatives from a number of departments: surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, nursing, radiology and pathology among them. Access to more information can help inform the staff in Wheeling in treating their cancer patients.

“It’s also the ability to just pick up the phone and say, hey, I’ve got a conundrum here,” Hazard-Jenkins said. “The more people and the more brains that are thinking about some of the more complicated cases, the better we take care of patients over time.

“Having Wheeling Hospital as part of the Cancer Institute network is, I think, incredibly instrumental to consistent patient care delivery across the state and across the region.”

Being part of the WVU Medicine network helps Wheeling Hospital in bringing in new, bright minds to combat cancer, Pollock said. The reputation WVU Medicine has within the medical field makes working at one of the hospitals in its network that much more enticing.

“WVU has helped us in terms of our recruitment effort in bringing in more oncological support, to allow us to continue our mission,” Pollock said.

One of those recent arrivals is Dr. Bhavana Bhatnagar, Wheeling’s director of medical oncology, who came to the hospital from Ohio State University.

Among the most important aspects where WVU Medicine has helped Wheeling Hospital is keeping breast cancer patients, and cancer patients as a whole, as close to home as possible as they fight the disease.

Pollock said that WVU Medicine fully understands how important familiarity and proximity to a support network is for a cancer patient. So the organization makes sure hospitals like Wheeling are properly equipped to treat those patients so they don’t have to travel to unfamiliar territory during such a traumatic time in their lives.

“They know that 70% of patients in the community who get cancer get treated in the community,” Pollock said. “So they make sure our community centers are well staffed, well financed and have all the equipment they need.”

Hazard-Jenkins agreed that patient comfort is paramount and keeping patients closer to loved ones during the treatment process can bolster a patient’s psyche during a hard cancer fight. That mental and emotional boost definitely helps.

“What it allows patients to do is if they need some sort of (highly specialized) care in Morgantown, they can get that,” she said. “But it also allows them to then return to home in the Wheeling area to receive all of their adjutant care. We do bone marrow transplants here. There’s no other center in the state that does bone marrow transplants. So they come here and get their transplants, and once it’s mutually agreed, they go back to Wheeling.

“For me, I don’t look at it as how do we strengthen the Cancer Institute,” she added. “I drive myself forward as a representative of it and a leader of it more about what is the right thing to do for the patients in West Virginia and this region. Part of it is keeping patients closer to home when possible, which is 100% the right thing to do.”


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