For years Bill Gregory’s job was to ensure that hospitals operated effectively. The emergency room, the parking garage, the cancer unit, the cafeteria—each day he thought of his hospitals as holistic systems with a patient at the center.
Now decades after his retirement from a career in hospital administration, roles have reversed. Today, a comprehensive team of doctors, nurses, and researchers at the new UVA Cancer Center Pantops are working hard to ensure that Bill receives the best possible treatment for his recent colon cancer diagnosis.
“They’re a second family for me now, and I look forward to seeing them every two weeks,” Bill says. “I go home feeling good, which doesn’t happen in a high percentage of healthcare facilities—I know from experience.”
The last nine months of Bill’s care mark the second major contribution that UVA has made to his quality of life. A native of Richmond, VA, Bill first sought care at UVA in 2008 to address chest pain and breathing difficulty.
What he learned next would change the course of his life forever—Bill needed a lung transplant. It was a long road to recovery, and Bill was a model patient determined to regain his independence. He began a twice-a-day walking regimen 48 hours after the transplant, and he became a fixture in Charlottesville, participating in the transplant support group, and visiting medical students to teach them about lung disease and life after receiving a transplant.
Things were looking up for Bill. His body accepted the new organ, his strength and mobility returned, and his prognosis was good.
Nine years later Bill returned to UVA to discuss complications he was experiencing when he received a diagnosis that required immediate medical intervention—he had colon cancer.
“Even though I live in Richmond, it never crossed my mind to go anywhere but UVA for my treatment,” Bill says. “The doctors are the best.”
Now he travels to the new UVA Cancer Center Pantops, where he’s been inspired by the relationship that has formed with Dr. Matthew Reilley.
“He has the right manner, the right knowledge, and he talks about moving forward,” Bill says. “I don’t think I would have lived these last nine months if Dr. Reilley hadn’t really worked hard to find the right therapies to stave off this cancer for me.”
Dr. Reilley, who specializes in making immunotherapies more effective in the treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, said he was drawn to the field of oncology because of the relationships and trust that develop with his patients.
“It feels good to know that I spent all these years training for a reason, and that is so I can help people like Bill,” Dr. Reilley says. “We have a bond now.”
In addition to providing care at UVA Hospital and the Couric building, patients are also receiving care at regional locations in Culpeper, Augusta, and Charlottesville at Pantops.
“From the patient perspective, the community oncology centers can be more accessible and convenient,” Dr. Reilley says. “From a doctor’s perspective, this model of delivery helps in the pursuit of medicine because certain patients benefit from being in certain locations.”
Bill is certainly one of those patients who is benefitting from the new center, citing the ease of parking, the proximity to Interstate 64, and the stunning mountain views as elements that make his treatment a stress-free experience.
Dr. Reilley, too, feels grateful to practice medicine in an environment that fosters both personal connections and innovative research.
“My primary interest in doing research is to make things work for patients, and to translate the most promising therapies into treatments that help patients and make a difference in their lives,” Dr. Reilley says.
Neither Bill nor Dr. Reilley know how this treatment will ultimately play out, but they do know that they are in it together.
“There is a long-term relationship here, and a lot of trust,” Bill says. “He trusts that I’m doing everything I can on my end, and I trust that he is doing everything on his end.”
“I can’t let Dr. Reilley down because he’s done all this research for me, he’s developed new protocols, and the nurses and researchers and staff are all really wonderful people,” Bill says. “It’s a great big picture, and I like to think that I’m part of the team.”
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