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By Courtesy San Joaquin Community Hospital
By The Bakersfield Californian
Oscar E. Streeter Jr. has been named medical director of The Cancer Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital, which is set to open late this year. He's coming from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where he is a professor and the chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology.
Streeter earned a bachelor's degree in biology from USC (where he was also captain of the water polo team) in 1978 and his medical degree from Howard University. He completed a residency in radiation oncology at Howard University Hospital. In 1986, Streeter worked at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles before joining the faculty of USC in 1990. He has been at Howard University since 2008.
Streeter was the co-principal investigator of a $3.5 million grant from the Radiation Research Program of the National Cancer Institute to increase enrollment in clinical trials in underserved areas of Los Angeles. His clinical trial of partial breast irradiation for the earliest stage of breast cancer is near completion.
He's already keeping an eye on the "Big B," as he likes to call Bakersfield, by reading news stories from here on his iPad.
"I want to soak up all I can about the 'Big B,'" he said. "I'm very excited to see all the great things going on here and what's on the horizon."
The Californian talked to Streeter about his goals for the center:
Q: Why did you want to come to Bakersfield? Had you been here before?
A: My wife, Dr. Paulette Saddler, has always maintained residency in California and the long commute back and forth from Washington, D.C., was one of the main reasons to leave Howard University, which will always have a special place in my heart. It was at Howard where I met my wife and learned about radiation oncology. So when this opportunity with The Cancer Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital came along -- which I believe to be a true blessing -- I knew that this is where I should be.
It is not just the premiere facility, it's the people at SJCH who make this opportunity so special. It is a place that is interested in being the best, innovative and inquisitive about best practices in health care.
Growing up in Southern California, yes I have been to Bakersfield. It is a city on the move, with citizens who are welcoming and believe in Bakersfield.
Q: How do you intend to distinguish the center's care from the two we already have here, Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center and the Florence R. Wheeler Cancer Center? How will they interplay, i.e., will one fill a niche the others don't, or will they compete head to head?
A: I have never been much on comparison, I do believe in leading. For example, I have led in the introduction of high dose rate brachytherapy for a quarter of a century. As a co-author on the first study on catheter-based delivery of radiation therapy for breast cancer, we changed the way early breast cancer treatment is delivered worldwide. I was also the only radiation oncologist in October of last year to speak on radiation techniques for breast cancer at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in San Francisco. In prostate cancer, I work closely with researchers from every institution, from Johns Hopkins to Georgetown, in collaborating on cutting edge research through the GenitoUrinary Multidisciplinary Regional Oncology Project, a group started in April 2011 to foster an exchange of information and cross-referral.
It is an idea that could work here in Bakersfield. It works so well in D.C. that it was featured on the front page of the Health section of the Washington Post in May. We share best practices instead of focusing on niche marketing, which is counterproductive. For example, combining chemotherapy with radiation therapy in novel ways led me to become one of the initial researchers to use a drug that targets a receptor on almost every head and neck cancer cell, the epithelial growth factor receptor with radiation therapy. As an expert in this technology, the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb invited me to be part of their speaker bureau to speak on the drug's use (erbitux) in the clinic based on articles published in New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet Oncology.
Q: How hard has it been/will it be to attract qualified oncologists to Bakersfield? How many have been/will be hired and where are they/will they be coming from?
A: We are speaking to some highly qualified providers who are very excited by what we're doing. I look forward to announcing those recruits through SJCH at the appropriate time.
Q: How do you plan to combat the perception that you have to drive to L.A. for good cancer care?
A: I worked at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, the first such center designated by the National Cancer Institute as comprehensive, for 18 years and on the medical staff at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), so I would say to anyone who did have the perception that you have to travel for world-class cancer care, that is no longer valid.
Q: Do you have any short- or long-term plans to address childhood cancer needs?
A: As a radiation oncologist who took care of children at CHLA, childhood cancer treatment is an issue that needs to be addressed, but not in a vacuum. It requires a community strategic plan and a commitment of resources, e.g., a dedicated pediatric anesthesiologist, special equipment for the pediatric patient, specialized nursing, pediatric oncologists and critical care specialists, who are devoted to the care of children. You also need specialized support networks for families who may have to travel to Bakersfield. It can be done, but sustainability is an issue.
Q: What specialties will be the strongest at San Joaquin's center?
A: Obviously breast cancer is where I have a strong record of introducing innovative care to patients. Also, prostate cancer, both external beam and, as we build our team, best practices in implanting the prostate for early prostate cancer. Lung cancer as well, and colorectal cancer, where I also have a strong publication record in innovative care delivery and translating lab research to the patient's bedside as in the case of determining what are the genetic triggers that lead to recurrence of colorectal cancer after surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Because of previous academic relationships, we can reach out to those resources and send tissue for review before starting therapy that is truly tailored for that patient's care. It's personalized medicine. There are many other areas I hope to address, but in the interest of space, we will save that for another day.