Broad Regional Reach Makes Advanced Oncology Care at WellSpan Accessible, Convenient

By Thomas Crocker
Thursday, April 20, 2017

Central Pennsylvanians can readily access highly advanced oncology care close to where they live and work, thanks to WellSpan Health’s four-county network of cancer centers.

Locations include WellSpan York Cancer Center, WellSpan Adams Cancer Center in Gettysburg, WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center in Lebanon, WellSpan Ephrata Cancer Center and Cherry Tree Cancer Center in Hanover — a joint venture with Hanover Hospital. WellSpan also works with physicians at Summit Health in Franklin County to provide radiation oncology services.

“We don’t want patients to have to travel far from home for what could be daily treatments,” says Douglas Arbittier, MD, MBA, Vice President of the Oncology and Surgical service lines at WellSpan Health. “We provide advanced specialty care in multiple locations so patients can receive treatment and support in the communities they know best.”

Synchronized, Not Siloed

Few elements of cancer care are as important as communication between clinicians or facilities. WellSpan prioritizes communication and collaboration by engaging in its Tumor Boards all the specialists who participate in the cancer treatment planning process.

“Medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and, when appropriate, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists or other clinicians from non-oncologic fields gather at least once a week to discuss patient cases and evaluate courses of treatment,” Dr. Arbittier says. “Video conferencing is available so we can draw on the expertise of providers from any of our cancer centers.”

This interdisciplinary approach promotes coordination of care and facilitates consultations that inform and optimize treatment. If, for example, a patient from a community cancer center is scheduled to visit WellSpan York Cancer Center for a specialized type of radiation therapy, clinicians from both locations can discuss the case during the Tumor Board.

Integrated Care under One Roof

To create an easier care experience, WellSpan offers its patients most oncology services — including medical oncology, surgical oncology and radiation oncology — at WellSpan’s Cancer Centers in York, Gettysburg, Lebanon and Ephrata.

Surgeons perform a variety of oncologic procedures at the WellSpan hospitals in each community, including treatment for breast and gastrointestinal cancers. If a patient needs a more complex procedure, such as pancreatectomy or pneumonectomy, one of WellSpan’s three fellowship-trained surgical oncologists can perform the surgery at WellSpan York Hospital.

WellSpan offers radiation therapy at all the system’s community cancer centers, which are accredited by the American College of Radiology. Specialists perform a wide range of modalities — including conformal radiation therapy, partial breast radiation, intensity modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery and prostate seed implants — at locations across the system.

“Board-certified, fellowship-trained radiation oncologists are available at each of our cancer centers,” Dr. Arbittier says. “They work closely with medical oncologists in all of our markets to create care plans for patients.”

Ori Shokek, MD, and Reena Pramanik, DO, two WellSpan radiation oncologists based in York, recently joined the staff at the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC) in Baltimore. There, Dr. Shokek and Dr. Pramanik evaluate and administer leading-edge proton therapy to WellSpan patients through a collaboration with the facility, which is one of only 25 such centers in the country.

“We are always looking to form partnerships that allow us to enhance access to the latest, most sophisticated treatment protocols for our patients,” Dr. Arbittier says. “Our relationship with the MPTC is a perfect example of that commitment.”

Caring for the Whole Patient

Treating disease is just part of the mission of WellSpan’s Cancer Centers. Also vital to providing excellent care is ensuring patients have the resources and psychosocial support they need while they undergo treatment and when they enter a new phase of life: survivorship. Nurse navigators play a crucial role in this effort. These providers are available at each WellSpan cancer center to steer patients through and help them make sense of the cancer journey.

“For cancer patients and their families, support services are often just as important as medical treatment,” Dr. Arbittier says. “Our cancer centers offer financial counseling, nutrition services — which are particularly important for head and neck cancer patients — social workers and a variety of support groups, including several that are cancer-site-specific.”

Douglas Arbittier, MD, MBA, Vice President of the Oncology and Surgical service lines at WellSpan Health
“At WellSpan, we believe that individuals living with cancer should be able to receive the care and treatment they need close to home. That’s why we provide integrated cancer care at locations across York, Adams, Lancaster and Lebanon counties, and we focus intensely on how care intersects at each of those points. This allows us to ensure best practices at all of our cancer centers and share them among locations.”
— Douglas Arbittier, MD, MBA, Vice President of the Oncology and Surgical service lines at WellSpan Health

When treatment concludes, it is essential for patients and their clinicians, particularly primary care physicians (PCPs), to have a complete record of what treatment entailed, as well as appropriate follow-up moving forward. WellSpan creates a survivorship care plan for every cancer patient. Cancer clinicians share this document with patients and their primary care physicians.

At WellSpan, standardization of care across its cancer centers is key to achieving successful outcomes. So are continuous evaluation and learning.

“We are always raising the bar for ourselves, taking the best of each of our cancer centers and applying it to all of them,” Dr. Arbittier says. “We never stop searching for ways to improve the care we offer to our friends and neighbors across Central Pennsylvania.”

To learn more about cancer care at WellSpan, visit