mccomb — Residents of McComb and surrounding counties now can receive modern cancer treatments without leaving the region.
“We’ve had people who had to travel daily to Jackson, Hattiesburg, or Hammond for cancer treatment, and now they can stay at home,” said McComb Mayor J. C. Woods. “And not only that, they can go to a state-of-the-art facility. It is my understanding they have one piece of equipment which is the only one like it in the world. I think the cancer center is going to be a real asset to our medical community and southwest Mississippi. But more importantly, it will be a real asset to the cancer patients.”
The $6-million Mississippi Cancer Institute, which is part of the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, attracted Hawaii native Scott Moon to be medical director of the department of radiation oncology.
“It was a just an incredible opportunity,” Moon said. “Everyone coming out of training at my time didn’t expect to find anything from ground up, let alone something as advanced as this facility. All I knew of Mississippi was what I had seen from movies, which wasn’t too flattering. My wife and I flew down and were pleasantly surprised. The hospital looked out of place because it was so advanced.
“It really looked like they were trying to create the best medical services available for the community. That kind of vision and commitment to providing excellent medical care is hard to find. This facility is superior to the satellite in Baltimore where I was training.”
Moon said the institute was originally planned to be 13,000 square feet just for radiation oncology. He felt patients would benefit from having medical oncology in the same building since some cancer patients need both types of treatment. He was willing to give up half of his space for medical oncology. Instead, a decision was made to add 8,000 square feet upstairs for medical oncology and pain management.
“It will be a multi-disciplinary setting,” Moon said. “Patients can get a lot of therapy in one place.”
Moon said he was basically given a “blank check” and told to find the best treatment machines available. The institute purchased the Siemens Primus linear accelerator, only the sixth such machine installed in the U.S. And the institute has the world’s first Tut Digital Imaging System, a new technology recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration which produces CAT images which are digitally coded.
Moon said it provides more accurate information than a regular CAT scan, allowing the physician to accurately define the tumor location to pinpoint treatment. It also digitally records all the treatment, and allows transfer of that data anywhere in the country for input from other specialists.
Another important piece of equipment is the Odelft Simulator, which helps with treatment planning, a crucial part of entire treatment.
Attention was also paid to esthetics.
“The environment of the center is very relaxing,” Moon said. “They did a great job with interior decorating to make it very patient friendly. It is just a really beautiful facility. It is a pleasant environment to come to every day.”
The new building is of the quality that would be more expected in a major metropolitan area rather than in a town with a population of only 14,000.
“The physical aspect of the cancer institute, the building it is in, blows your mind to be in a small town. It would fit in New York City, California, or Atlanta,” said J. Britt Herrin, executive director of the Pike County Economic Development District and the Pike County Chamber of Commerce. “It is absolutely first class. There is nothing in the region like it, and maybe few places like it in the entire country.
“Obviously, McComb with only 14,000 people can’t support a facility like this. They were able to show that this hospital serves an area of about 200,000 people, which is primarily the 10 counties southwest of Jackson. It also attracts a number of people from Louisiana. I don’t think McComb is really closer to them, but for some reason they are attracted here. It has a good reputation in the region.”
Herrin said the hospital has 140 beds and more than 80 doctors, which again is evidence of the regional draw of the facility. The hospital is an industry in itself.
“The doctors have a huge direct and indirect economic impact,” Herrin said. “And the hospital is extremely involved in the community. A lot of the leadership for many of the community activities are people in the medical community. There is a close knit relationship between that hospital and this community.”
The hospital has a foundation that hosts an annual gala fundraiser which is a major community event. Last year a concert by recording star Roberta Flack raised money for the cancer center. The year before a Willie Nelson concert was held.
“It’s a great thing,” Herrin said. “It not only raises money for the hospital, but draws the ties between the community and the hospital that much closer.”