Of critical importance to the ROI is collecting, mining and analyzing data. What are your thoughts on the value of data registries?
The collection of registry data is a paramount item for the ROI; how we do it is another matter. The huge AHRQ report is overwhelming; I am not sure if we can really get our arms around such a project without a team of dedicated researchers. And, do we need all that information to function?
What will happen to our field if we don't develop high-quality data?
High-quality data is the key to communicating effectively with the government. They may come up with their own data that may or may not be accurate and possibly not be relevant to our specialty. Good solid outcome data is critical to evaluate new modes of therapy and relate these to the current accepted forms of therapy. With solid data to back up our recommendations we can influence change for the better. National study protocols can accomplish the same end result, but national protocols are limited in their scope and take a very long time to mature.
What do you see as the big opportunities and threats in our field?
The opportunity is ours for the taking, but we need to be sure what and how much we want to tackle. The primary threat is more government regulation to assist us in the care of our patients.
Why did you decide to give to the ROI?
I think the ROI will take initiative and move forward with some form of outcome analysis faster than other organizations. I still believe this, though it is taking longer than I hoped. I always have been impatient. The ROI has the best leaders in the field, has collected a very good financial base and should be able to accomplish, or at least start, something meaningful within the next year.
Why should others support the ROI?
The big donors have come forward, but the smaller donations will ultimately be the deciding factor if the ROI is to have adequate funding to carry all this forward to completion.
What I remember about being a medical student:
When I entered medical school, I was a brash young man who thought the world of medicine would be both fun and profitable and, most importantly, a world where I could make a difference in patient care. I soon discovered the marvelous new specialty of "radiotherapy" as a sophomore medical student in 1956 and never varied from that track. As it turned out, it has been a lot more work than I ever imagined, but it was a huge amount of fun, and yes, it has been profitable. Lastly, I truly think I have made a difference in patient care, and I still continue to do so today.
My first job at the University of Oklahoma in 1964 was my last and only job. I am one of a very small number of radiation oncologists who never moved from their first position.