Crews leaving cancer center

Published 12:23 am Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The doctor who has spearheaded efforts to improve cancer treatment in Beaufort County over the past decade is leaving her post.

Dr. Jennie Crews, who serves as medical director of the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center in Washington, has notified the center’s patients that she is leaving Washington at the end of January to accept a position as the director of the cancer center at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham, Wash.

“I look forward to the challenges of this new position, but also have a heavy heart over leaving so many people that I love,” Crews wrote in a Dec. 27 letter to cancer center. “I thank you for sharing your journey with me and teaching me so much along the way.”

Dr. John Inzerillo, who joined the center in 2006, and Nicole DaVia, a physician assistant at the center since 2009, will continue to see patients, Harvey Case, president of Vidant Beaufort Hospital, said.

Members of the medical community and officials with Vidant Health praised Crews’ work on behalf of cancer patients in Beaufort and surrounding counties but pledged to continue to provide quality care to the area’s cancer patients after Crews’ departure.

“Dr. Crews is an excellent physician and will be missed. We wish her well in her new position,” said Travis Douglass, executive vice president and director of UHS Physicians, in a statement released Tuesday. “We continue to have two providers seeing patients so that there is no disruption in care.”

Douglass’ remarks were echoed by Case.

“We hate to see her leave,” Case said. “Dr. Crews established a strong foundation for cancer treatment in the community that will allow us to move forward in her absence.”

Vidant Health is recruiting a replacement for Crews and, during the transition, will provide a temporary oncologist until a director is chosen, Case said.

Expanding the cancer center continues to be one of Vidant Beaufort Hospital’s top priorities, he said.

“This is a model,” Case said of the center. “This is something that we would like other communities to have.”

The Board of Directors of East Carolina Health in December approved spending some $135,000 for an architect’s drawings and bid specifications for expansion of the cancer center as part of Vidant Beaufort Hospital’s $10 million capital budget for 2012, Case said. Those plans are expected to be completed in the next few months, he said.

That board oversees operations of the community hospitals affiliated with Vidant Health.

For many years, patients received cancer treatment at the hospital. In 2006, the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center opened as a stand-alone clinic under the auspices of Beaufort County Hospital, later Beaufort County Medical Center and now Vidant Beaufort Hospital. In 2007, radiology oncology services were added.

Besides spearheading the effort to create a stand-alone clinic, Crews was instrumental in the creation of the cancer center’s fundraising arm, the Shepard Cancer Foundation.

That foundation generally raises about $50,000 each year to provide education programs, support groups and complementary therapies such as massage, restorative yoga and other activities free of charge for cancer patients and their caregivers.

Foundation board members praised Crews’ leadership, but said they will continue with their fundraising activities following her departure.

“We are saddened to see Dr. Crews leave our hospital and community and we will certainly miss her. The success that the cancer center and the Shepard Cancer Foundation have experienced is a testament to the tremendous job she has done,” said John Tate, president of the foundation. “The foundation board is very grateful for the recent commitment made by the East Carolina Health Board to move forward with the expansion of the Center. And we are particularly excited about Harvey’s leadership and his vision for the future of the Cancer Center.”