The Giveback

Philip Dugan ’58: A Shorter Road to Treatment

By Fred Puza ’10
Photos by Bryan Meltz

For people with cancer in the gastrointestinal area, radiation therapy can be an ordeal as well as a path to better health. A 10-minute treatment may leave them with tiredness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

 

Philip Dugan, M.D., has been an oncologist and radiation therapist for 40 years, and he’s seen it too many times.

“About 40 percent of my patients quit treatment if it requires traveling long distances,” says Dugan ’58. “Many of them say forget it and take their chances on taking morphine at home or with no medical treatment at all.”

Dugan, now retired, earned his medical degree at St. Louis University and practiced in Cleveland, Tenn. In 1985, he made radiation treatment more bearable for his patients. He established the Cleveland Regional Cancer Center some 30 miles from Chattanooga, the nearest major city with a cancer treatment center. Eight years later, he opened the Athens Regional Cancer Center, midway between Chattanooga and Knoxville. The centers offer the same care and technology that a patient would receive in a major urban center, with a shorter daily long-distance trek.

“It’s unreasonable to ask patients to travel that much, especially when they’re on a daily treatment program for six weeks,” Dugan says. “These centers close the gap tremendously for outlying populations.”

After Dugan retired in 2011, he helped establish the Ocoee Foundation, which offers financial assistance to cancer patients. In some cases, a patient’s bus fare to a center has even been covered. The foundation also helps to fund a bereavement and counseling program and educational courses designed to help patients who have successfully completed treatment to remain cancer-free.

Dugan says his desire to help others was instilled in him from his Jesuit education, of which he received a triple dose by attending St. Louis University, Loyola University and Loyola High School in Los Angeles.

“I learned from the Jesuits that this world is not one of take, take,” Dugan says. “But if you do take, you better be prepared to give back. I know it’s my turn to give back.”

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