Hope, Joy and The Mother Standard of Care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

My co-host, Dr. Cathy Greenberg interviews John McNeil.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I hope you’ll enjoy the conversation we are going to have with John McNeil, CEO and President of Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Eastern Regional Medical Center.

Today, we are going to focus on what does it take to make cancer an enemy of all? What does it take to fight it with all of your emotional gusto?

We are going to talk to John McNeil and I want to start the show with a quote from John.

He says, “Cancer Treatment Centers of America is one of the only hospitals in the country and the only one in the region practicing a true model of integrative care. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Oncologists work closely with on-staff nutritionists, mind-body therapists, naturopathic doctors, physical therapists, and spiritual support to treat the whole person and provide therapeutic outcomes while minimizing side-effects. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s team of practitioners meet 3 times weekly as a group on behalf of each patient to ensure that care is total, coordinated and, more importantly, compassionate. The open line of communication between each patient’s care and their care providers means we can better determine progress and optimize results.”

John, we are so delighted to have you with us, today.

Let me tell you a little about John and then we will welcome him to the show.

Mr. McNeil came to Philadelphia in late 2004 to lead Cancer Treatment Center in establishing its Eastern Regional Medical Center.

Before this, John was chief operating officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Southern Western Regional Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It’s a comprehensive cancer center recently recognized by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer as an Outstanding Achievement Award recipient.

Prior to joining Cancer Treatment Centers of America, John served a prominent 21 hospital house system in a variety of executive roles including; Corporate Director and President and CEO.

John, welcome to the show.

John McNeil: Thank you, Cathy.

It’s a pleasure to be here with you.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Well, as you can see, I’m so excited I can barely get the words out.

So, as we move forward, we have one key question, John, that we ask all of our guests right off the bat and that is: Who have truly been the most influential people, thinkers and, if you will, any kind of a leader in your life and your career who shaped who you are in your thinking?

John McNeil: Cathy, I have been very, very blessed to have had a number of people in my life. Starting from my earliest memories with my family.

My father, who was a Scottish carpenter with an incredible work ethic, proud that he never missed a day of work his entire life.

My mother, a German lady of both Jewish and English descent, who was a nurse.

The strong start with family values and work ethic, certainly, probably, the most important influencers in my life.

But then, adding to that, people along life’s journey including people like Frank Dupper, who was many years the president of a prominent health care system on the west coast.

A man with a finance background, who grew so far beyond that. Who taught me the real meaning of the concept of people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

That was Frank.

Then, there was a Lee Kyser, who is a healthcare futurist, who has a way of making you think and drawing out your thinking in ways that sometimes surprise you. Asking pointed questions and taking your mind – it’s just whole way of thinking that he teaches. The importance of intuitive leadership and seeing life differently.

I can say enough of the importance of Lee Kyser.

Another person, Earl Bakken, who was the board chairman of the hospital that I was at in Hawaii.

Earl was the inventor of the pacemaker and the founder of Medtronic. A man who really understood that, in the end, the customer always gets what the customer wants.

A man who used to be ridiculed for saying that managed-care won’t be successful because managed-care doesn’t give the customer what the customer wants.

And yet, from the ‘90s when we saw such rigid managed-care examples, I fear our nation may be having a certain amount of return to it, where they got very rigid with no out-of-network benefits and that kind of thing.

Then the reaction, where there were anti-managed-care laws and there were more flexible entrepreneurial plans that evolved that provided consumer choice because of what Earl understood so well – the customer gets what the customer wants.

Dick Stephenson, who’s the founder and chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Who is one of the brightest people I have had the privilege of working with. Who has a guiding principle, that he wants every patient in these centers to get the kind of care he wished he could have found for his mother back around 1980, before Cancer Treatment Centers of America existed.

The kind of care he wished he could have found for his mother and could find nowhere. That’s really a guiding principle for us.

To treat every patient as our family, in fact, they become our family. We love them, they love us. At the same time, we don’t forget that they are also our boss. I have the title President and CEO but everyone knows here, they don’t really work for me, we, together, work for each and every patient.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Wow, that was huge. I loved when you said, and I believe it was something Frank said,

“They know how much you can.”

And then the Kyser Institute, the integration of intuition and learning how to be your best, the whole idea that Earl shared on being more attuned to flexible consumer choices.

And of course, our dear, Richard Stephenson, Chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Who has now helped us all establish the mother standard of care, that’s outstanding.

Let me ask you a follow-up question to that, John. And that is: Why a career in hospital services? What brought you to who you are, in this role today?

John McNeil: You know, I think we all have life experiences – sometimes good sometimes bad – that collectively make us who we are. Even the bad can make us stronger and prove to have great meaning to who we become.

I think back to some of my earliest memories of cancer when I was 3-years-old, my grandmother getting sick and dying in a fairly short period of time, of cancer. My grandfather, her husband (grandparents on my mother’s side), after his wife – my grandmother – died (she died of cancer and complications of cancer), he died of failing to live after that. Simply, quit living and died within 6 months.

So, the early memories followed by, on my father’s side, my grandfather who shared a birthday with me and now sharse a birthday with my son. That grandfather who I was very close to, partly because of the shared birthday, it just created more of a bond.

When I was 10, right after we had shared a birthday together, my dad came home and said, “Grandpa has been admitted to the hospital for cancer.”

I said, “I want to go see him.”

Dad took me to the hospital, they wouldn’t let me in because “hospitals” they said, “were no place for children.”

Grandpa died in that hospital, he had gotten an infection, gangrene. He was in isolation.

Dad said, “They would only let him in for 5 minutes out of the hour.”

He would have to put on a yellow gown, hat, mask and gloves. “I couldn’t really touch him except through the gloves.”

And then he could only stay for 5 minutes, I’ve always imagined that grandpa died, I doubt too far from the truth, alone without family.

Afraid and alone.

Listen to the complete interview above.

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