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Objective of St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s partnership with doTerra International is integrative cancer care

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s partnership with Utah-based doTERRA International will allow the Northern Kentucky health care provider to further its objective to provide integrative cancer care for its patients.

doTERRA has donated $5 million to the St. Elizabeth Foundation Cancer Center Community Campaign to support the development of a new facility focused on integrative care.

Much like the comprehensive approach to cancer treatment St. Elizabeth Healthcare embraces, a team of leaders working together will bring integrative oncology to the new Cancer Center. Left to right are, Dr. Doug Flora, executive medical director of oncology services at St. Elizabeth, Carri Chandler, vice president of the St. Elizabeth Foundation, Dr. Russell J. Osguthorpe, chief medical officer at doTerra, St. Elizabeth President and CEO Garren Colvin, doTerra Welness Advocate Nicole Chase, and Brannick Riggs, vice president of healthcare initiatives at doTerra (photo by Mark Hansel).

doTERRA will play a foundational role in the development and implementation of the Center for Integrative Oncology within St. Elizabeth’s new Cancer Center in Edgewood, scheduled to open next year.

Dr. Russell J. Osguthorpe, chief medical officer and vice president of medical and scientific initiatives at doTerra, said the company embraced the opportunity to partner with St. Elizabeth.

“Northern Kentucky has a problem with cancer and we are privileged to help be a partner and part of the solution,” Osguthorpe said. “They are on the front lines and we are privileged to work alongside of them.”

doTerra is an integrative health and wellness company. In just 11 years, it has gone from a start-up to being the world leader in the global aromatherapy and essential oils market.

“Integrative care is to be used in conjunction with and throughout a patient experience as they go through their diagnosis and treatment to improve their quality of life,” Osguthorpe said. “Cancer is one of the great plagues that we face as a country and the treatment for it can be so hard for families to go through. Anything that we can do in partnership with St. Elizabeth to make that experience more human, more caring, is needed in health care.”

Garren Colvin, president and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare said when the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center opens next fall, it will include nearly an entire floor dedicated to the holistic, patient-centered approach to care known as integrative oncology.

“We want patients (and their caregivers) to have as much support and access to resources as possible under one roof,” Colvin said.

The doTERRA Center for Integrative Oncology will be more than 8,400 square feet on the first floor of the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center.

Dr. Doug Flora, executive medical director of oncology services at St. Elizabeth, said St. E is responding to changes in the way patients and their families want and need to be treated.

“Fifty percent of all cancer patients report using some alternative or complementary medicine,” Dr. Flora said. “The number gets as high as 80 percent when you survey women with breast cancer.”

Dr. Brannick Riggs, vice president of healthcare initiatives and chief medical director of doTERRA’s medical clinic, said complementary medicine is critical to treatment and recovery.

“It’s a way of rebuilding the patient after the treatment,” Dr. Riggs said. “We know that traditional treatment by design wreaks some havoc on the human body. We hope that these modalities help support the rebuilding of a life afterward.”

Dr. Flora said the relationship is a culmination of years of planning, during which St. Elizabeth has tried to build a sturdy table that will hold cancer treatment for the community.

“The first leg was screening, prevention and early detection. The second leg was precision medicine and targeting therapies so we are more intelligently designing treatments for our patients who need care,” Flora said. “The third leg was the clinical trials themselves and how do we find the next drug, the next best agent to reduce morbidity and mortality. Then the fourth leg was how do you take care of the whole person, by keeping all of the science in mind.”

Osguthorpe said that is one aspect of the partnership that really excites him. He calls the ability to collaborate on research around the use of integrated modalities in cancer care groundbreaking.

“We know that’s a neglected part of clinical trials,” Osguthorpe said. “If we study these things and we show with real scientific intent that there is use. That aromatherapy reduces fatigue or improves quality of life or that medical massage relieves anxiety or helps with depression we can publish that and people start using it as a standard of care.”

Those treatments are now readily accepted in breast cancer.

Throughout all of our literature now, there is a lot of level-one evidence, randomized control clinical trials showing that things like this work,” Osguthorpe said. “It’s now time to get that out there for the rest of the cancer patients.”

Flora believes the therapies that will lead to real advances in cancer care and treatment can best be achieved by exploring new methods.

“This is a combination of using really rigorous clinical trials and investigating these agents and these modalities to see if we can improve the quality of life of our patients,” Flora said. “It lets us combine our level of science and our enthusiasm for taking care of the whole patient in one package.”

doTerra Wellness Advocate Nicole Chase of Burlington and St. Elizabeth Healthcare Dr. Doug Flora, executive medical director of oncology services, explain how the partnership between St.E and the integrative health and wellness company came about.

Colvin said that the addition of an integrative care center is a critical next step in methods St. Elizabeth has already embraced.

“It’s something that we have been doing and we have sold doTerra oils in our gift shop for quite a while,” Colvin said. “This allows us to achieve our main goal, which is to have all the services necessary for the mind, the spirit, and the total patient under one roof. We are trying to make sure that whatever our patients feel they need, we have the ability to deliver and this partnership allows us to do that.”

The Center for Integrative Oncology will provide a calming space with holistic care options to complement St. Elizabeth’s comprehensive medical care.

A large portion of the first floor of the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center in Edgewood will be dedicated to the doTERRA Center for Integrative Oncology. (renderings provided by St. Elizabeth Healthcare)

It will include the use of doTERRA essential oils and aromatherapy, yoga, meditation and a spa-like atmosphere for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

“I think the one thing that has become clear to me is that when you have a patient going thorough this, it’s not just the patient that needs care, the whole family needs care,” Colvin said. “This allows a space where the entire family can relieve tension, relieve stress, so they can better take care of the patient who needs the most care.”

doTERRA first learned of the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center from Nicole Chase, one of its wellness advocates.

Six years ago Chase, who lives in Burlington, was diagnosed with cancer and was referred to Dr. Flora for treatment.

“Obviously nobody wants to go in and be treated for cancer,” Chase said. “When I went in I didn’t want to be happy and wanted to be a little bit miserable and he wouldn’t let me. He pepped me up and made me laugh and I walked out of there really confused because I was happier leaving than I was coming in and he made the treatments bearable.

As Chase continued to go through chemotherapy and radiation, she realized she needed other ways to treat the whole person.

“I began to use essential oils and additional modalities to help me through emotionally,” Chase said. “After I exited my cancer, I wasn’t really living the life I needed to live and I needed to do more because I was getting a second chance. I started learning more about essential oils and I started helping other people who were just like me and it really fed me and helped me with my recovery to do that.”

When Chase learned St. Elizabeth was building a new cancer center her first thought was that she wanted to be a part of that and wanted to help other people treat the whole patient.

“So I reached out and asked (Dr. Flora) if he would take a meeting with me and that’s how it got started,” Chase said.

Flora soon came on board and that discussion led to meetings with Dr. Riggs and others from doTerra.

“It was a vision I held and I wanted and I started passing it around and it grew,” Chase said. “It might have started with me, but it wouldn’t have happened without a major collaboration between everyone.”

The Integrative Center will provide a calming space with holistic care options to complement St. Elizabeth’s comprehensive medical care. It will include the use of doTERRA essential oils and aromatherapy, yoga, meditation and a spa-like atmosphere for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Osguthorpe said Chase’s efforts and Flora’s support drove the partnership.

“These two brought our two companies together to provide the type of care that both of our companies want and need,” Osguthorpe said. “They collaborated and shared it with us, and now we all sit here with the same vision that she had before any of us did.”

The $130 million St. Elizabeth Cancer Center, with it’s integrative approach is the next step in Colvin’s vision to make Northern Kentucky the healthiest region in the country.

The 233,000-square-foot facility will be the region’s leading comprehensive cancer center when it opens in the fall of 2020.

Carri Chandler, vice president of the St. Elizabeth Foundation said that at the Cancer Center groundbreaking 14 months ago, the foundation stamped its commitment to the project.

Foundation chair Bob Hoffer announced the ambitious goal of the foundation to raise $35 million for the project.

Prior to that, the largest goal achieved by the foundation was $15 million for the St. Elizabeth Heart and Vascular Institute.

“We’ve raised about $29 million,” Chandler said. “It’s not just our foundation team, it’s our volunteers, our community leaders, it’s everyone getting engaged and being a part of the solution. With cancer being so pervasive in this area, everyone has been touched in some way and they just want to help out.”

The 233,000-square-foot St. Elizabeth Cancer Center will be the region’s leading comprehensive cancer center when it opens in the fall of 2020.

The $5 million donation from doTerra is the largest ever received from a corporation by the St. E Foundation.

“In our early conversations, we discovered that Kentucky had the highest incidents of cancer and Utah had the least,” Chandler said. “It really says a lot that doTerra would go out of their own state to come and lend us a hand.”

Riggs said as the team at doTerra learned about St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s approach to cancer treatment, they knew the company wanted to be a partner.

“The culture of St. Elizabeth is very patient-oriented, very warm and mindful of the individual dealing with their challenges,” Riggs said. “doTerra has a very similar culture, so we are so well aligned as companies, this really is a partnership that makes sense for us. The time has come in health care and there is a rising tide, mainly brought on by patients asking for, but also physicians taking note, that there is a need for integrative care.”

Colvin said doTerra’s commitment should spur even more involvement from partners within the region.

“You have a Utah-based company, that is a world leader in their field of expertise, that wants to come to Kentucky to address a chronic issue that we all know that we have,” Colvin said. “It warms my heart and it fuels a passion that you know exists within the people in this room. It allows us to take that to our community and say ‘you need to help us support this, because we are going to make all of you better.’”

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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