Special Ops Cancer Care Network Leads to More Military Partnerships for Moffitt
By Ann Miller Baker
When Special Forces Operators Like Art Are Facing A Cancer Diagnosis, Their Access To Cutting-edge Care Anywhere In The Country Is Just A Phone Call Away.
Thanks to a partnership forged between Moffitt and U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, a network of 12 top-tier cancer centers stands ready to care for these special ops heroes and their families.
And it all started with a newspaper article and an email. John DeMuro read a news story about a group called the Warrior Care Program (Care Coalition), which provides lifetime advocacy for wounded, ill or injured special ops forces and their families after traumatic injury or illness. Interestingly, he noted, it was based right around the corner at MacDill.
As the federal legislative affairs director for Moffitt Cancer Center, DeMuro and his colleagues in Government Relations had been looking for opportunities to strengthen Moffitt’s support of the military beyond caring for veterans and service members with cancer.
An email follow-up to that article landed on the desk of Katryna “Kat” Deary, then a lieutenant colonel and deputy director of operations with the Warrior Care Program. She welcomed the connection, hoping to smooth the way for special operators and their family members battling cancer – not just at Moffitt, but anywhere in the United States.
Moffitt’s Government Relations staff regularly interact with national organizations like the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers and the Association of American Cancer Institutes, providing plenty of contacts within Moffitt’s peer institutions across the country. “It’s a pretty small world at this level,” DeMuro explains, “but it’s not a world that USSOCOM or the Care Coalition had easy access to.”
At first, he would simply reach out to those peers on a case-by-case basis. Before long, he and Deary began compiling a network of contacts at places like Dana-Farber Institute, Memorial Sloan Kettering, MD Anderson and others. Based on the operator’s location or preference of treatment facility, Deary could make one call to get the ball rolling.
“Absolutely everyone deserves the best care that they can get,” says Deary. “We just have a population that is still at the forefront of defending our country. There is a tremendous investment in training for each of these individuals – they’re not easily replaced when down for illness or injury. With their high operational tempo, we need to get them in to the appropriate facilities for the appropriate diagnoses and treatments as quickly as possible. We want to get them back to being as healthy and focused as possible, as quickly as possible.”
Now retired from military duty but still working as a nurse case manager and point-of-contact for special operators with cancer through USSOCOM’s Command Surgeon’s Office, Deary says she personally has handled referrals for at least 30 such individuals through this network.
The original cooperation between Moffitt’s DeMuro and USSOCOM’s Deary yielded one more benefit. Discovering they were practically neighbors just beyond MacDill, their two families have since struck up a friendship. Hopefully, such neighborly cooperation will lead to further positive partnerships between Moffitt and the military as well.
JOINING FORCES TO BETTER SERVE OUR MILITARY
THIS INITIAL COOPERATIVE EFFORT HAS OPENED THE DOOR TO OTHER PARTNERSHIPS
BETWEEN MOFFITT AND THE MILITARY:
- AT THE JOHN P. MURTHA CANCER CENTER WITHIN WALTER REED NATIONAL MILITARY MEDICAL CENTER, service members receiving cancer treatment can now enroll in Moffitt’s Total Cancer Care® (TCC) protocol through our Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN). With their consent, TCC gathers patients’ history, data and samples from biopsies or blood tests to help care providers best tailor cancer treatment over the patient’s lifetime – and to help researchers develop new and improved cancer care.
- USSOCOM IS WORKING WITH MOFFITT TO EXPAND THE TCC PROTOCOL BEYOND ITS 287 DISCRETE DATA POINTS RELATED TO CANCER. The goal is to be able to establish baseline information for healthy young service members as they enter special operations training. This expanded protocol would enable military care providers to track health changes and injuries throughout the service member’s career, along with their exposures to locations and situations common to the service environment. If the data can help identify, for instance, individuals at increased risk for traumatic brain injury following accidents, it could better inform deployment decisions.
- MOFFITT IS ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN THE STAR (SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES [SOF] TRANSITION ASSISTANCE RESOURCE) PROGRAM for special operators and military officers transitioning to civilian life in the Tampa Bay area. Civilian program participants like Moffitt President and CEO Dr. Alan List host dinners where key service members facing transition can develop relationships with area business leaders to better determine their future path beyond the service. With USSOCOM and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) based here at MacDill, this unique talent pool has been the source for several successful Moffitt hires in recent years.
- IN 2017, DR. LIST WAS SELECTED BY FORMER SECRETARY OF THE ARMY ERIC K. FANNING TO SERVE AS A CIVILIAN AIDE to the secretary of the Army (CASA). CASAs are a vital part of the Army, promoting good relations between the Army and the public and advising the Secretary about regional issues.
- LIKEWISE, SEVERAL PROMINENT RETIRED MILITARY OFFICERS HAVE BEEN ASKED TO ADVISE MOFFITT. Moffitt’s Military Council provides input on matters affecting military populations and assists with our military partnership efforts. Established in 2015, this volunteer group has helped Moffitt improve access to world-class cancer care for active and retired military, and to engage various entities within the Department of Defense in joint cancer research efforts. Among the Council’s volunteer members are Robert Hyde, Commander, U.S. Navy (retired); T.J. Farrell, Colonel, U.S. Army Reserves (retired), now with Charles Schwab Corporation; Matthew Mullarkey, Captain, U. S. Army (retired), now with the University of South Florida; Hal Walker, MD, Colonel, U.S. Army (retired) and former Command Surgeon, U.S. Special Operations Command; Michael Stephens, Captain, U.S. Army (retired), now with the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority; and The Honorable Michael J. Scionti, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Reserves, as well as Judge in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Hillsborough County.