Joanne's Story: Premier Health Takes on Cancer with World’s Leading Experts

Affiliation with MD Anderson Cancer Network® enters fourth year

The grapefruit-sized tumor in Joanne Dotson’s abdomen displaced her liver and compressed her vena cava, a major vein that carries blood to the heart. No doubt about it, the malignant solitary fibrous mass was on a dark mission. It had to go.

James Ouellette, DO, FACS, a surgeon and certified physician with MD Anderson Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center, at Premier Health, had seen and removed tumors this large before, but not one in this particular location. Part of the liver might have to be removed. How much? And if the tumor were attached to the vena cava, excising it cleanly would be risky and complicated, if not impossible.

“That’s why I reached out to MD Anderson,” said Dr. Ouellette, chief of surgery and director of the Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery Program at Miami Valley Hospital. “We always want to make the best decision possible when treating cancer.”

‘Houston, we have a problem’

Located in Houston, Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center is one of the world’s largest and most respected centers devoted exclusively to cancer care, research, education, and prevention.

Premier Health joined MD Anderson Cancer Network in 2016 after meeting the network’s rigorous qualification criteria, which involves treating patients according to evidence-based medicine. Hospitals and health systems must share MD Anderson’s patient-centered values and dedication to high-quality care. Premier Health has a long history of excellence in oncology, as well as a commitment to patient and family-centered care.

As a certified member of the network, Premier Health can consult and collaborate with the world’s leading cancer experts, sharing the best practices and protocols being developed in the industry. The affiliation also provides Premier Health physicians access to consult virtually with MD Anderson’s physicians in Houston, TX, with whom they can confer on care for particularly complex cases, such as Joanne Dotson’s.

Together with MD Anderson, Dr. Ouellette found the direction he needed.

“We were looking for an alternative to surgery, such as radiation, chemotherapy, or something else,” he said. “But in the end, we concluded there were no good options or alternative treatments. We had to go forward with surgery.”

Joanne, meanwhile, had total faith in Premier Health and her physicians.

“I was never afraid, never worried,” said the 71-year-old retired science teacher from Dayton Public Schools. “I knew I was in good hands — God’s and Dr. Ouellette’s.”

A Successful Surgery

So confident was Joanne that as her Nov. 1, 2018, surgery date approached, she told Dr. Ouellette, “All you have to do is lift (the tumor) up and cut it out. I’m going to be okay.”

Joanne’s prediction proved essentially correct: the tumor was connected to the vena cava but not as extensively as Dr. Ouellette feared. He removed the tumor fully from the vena cava and the liver, with no cancer cells left behind.

“The most important thing I want people to know is that the goal of us at Premier Health and the goal of MD Anderson Cancer Network is to be able to get patients a higher level of care possible close to home” said Dr. Ouellette. “We at Premier Health have a very large and very experienced team, and now we’ve expanded that team through increased access to people at the forefront of cancer research. You can always improve your patient’s care by finding good collaborators.”

Joanne underwent 28 days of radiation treatment following surgery and remains cancer free. She credits God, Dr. Ouellette, and her close friends Hattie and Cam Few with getting her through her cancer journey.

“I feel blessed,” she said from her Harrison Township home. “I know I’m blessed because I’m cancer free. I line dance, I ballroom dance, I watch football. I’m living life!”

Contact Us

Our cancer team is here for you. Our cancer specialists have access to nationally recognized cancer care protocols and best practices, since Premier Health is a certified member of MD Anderson Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center. Our patients benefit from advanced local care backed by the world-renowned expertise of the nation’s leading cancer center. 

Call the Premier Health cancer hotline at (844) 316-HOPE(844) 316-4673 (4673), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to connect with a Premier Health cancer navigator.