Friday Faculty Focus: Kenneth Cowan


July 14th, 2017

Dr. Kenneth Cowan (Photo courtesy UNMC)

This week, KVNO reporter Brandon McDermott speaks with Dr. Kenneth Cowan, director of the newly opened Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on campus at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Brandon McDermott: Dr. Kenneth Cowan, thanks for coming on the show.

Kenneth Cowan: Thank you very much.

Brandon: Talk about the newly opened Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at UNMC.

Dr. Cowan: It’s truly a transformational facility for Omaha, for UNMC – literally for the country. A brand new cancer we just opened up less than a month ago. I’ve been imagining and planning for it for over 10 years, we actually started programming and thinking about it seriously about five years ago. We broke ground three and a half years ago.

It’s the largest project in history of the university at 615,000 square feet — the largest public private partnership in the history of the state in Nebraska at $323 million dollars with public support from the state, the city and the county of $90 million dollars total and over $160 million dollars of public support. (This was) to really build a facility that totally integrates cancer care and cancer research under one roof, really for the basic benefit and focus on cancer.

Brandon: Can we just explain a little bit to the listeners just how groundbreaking this is to have the research in the same building with the clinicians, working side by side. How can that help going forward with the understanding and research of cancer?

Dr. Cowan: Well there are two aspects to it that really make it transformational and really a benefit for patient. Number one we moved our entire clinical faculty into one building. So, medical oncology, radiation oncology, pediatric oncology, surgical oncology and GYN oncology — all the clinical faculty are in this one building.

To see patients in our cancer hospital – 108 bed cancer hospital in this cancer center — to see patients together in our multidisciplinary clinic, we also have a radiology imaging center so patients need any x-rays before going to clinic, they can get them done there, if they need blood testing they can get it drawn there.

By the time they go to clinic, it really is a one stop shopping — one phone call, one appointment — they get to see every specialist they need to see, not only the physicians, nurses, physical therapist, dieticians and social workers the idea that we can accommodate everything about treating a patient in one facility — literally — in one multidisciplinary team approach.

Brandon: So, Dr. Cowan, what exactly will your role be with the new Buffett Cancer Center?

Dr. Cowan:  My job is to really make sure that the facility functions for the maximum benefit for patients and then we build the teams and that we recruit the right faculty to work well together to really focus on how to advance cancer research as quickly as possible and have those opportunities available for new opportunities for cancer diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible.

Brandon: It seems like UNMC is always growing — pushing to do better — to be better. What kind of environment does this create for people like yourself as you try to help people who are suffering?

Dr. Cowan:  When I came here in 1999, UNMC was attractive. It had a cancer center already existing in place and had specifically what’s referred to as a National Cancer Institute designated cancer center — it was awarded this designation back in 1984 — and a longstanding track record of building cancer research in cancer clinical programs.

Over the last 18 years the university campus really exploded, in terms of growth. (There are) two new research towers were built adding 200 laboratories, new medical buildings and educational billets for the College of Medicine, Pharmacy and nursing and a new school College of Public Health. It was an increased on the campus in terms of direction, specifically in terms of research. So, we had recruited a number of faculty through all the different colleges focusing on cancer research and cancer clinical care. About 10 years ago we realized that we needed a place to put all these things together for the benefit of patients and also for the benefit of building these multidisciplinary cancer care and cancer research teams.

This cancer center really was an accomplishment of the entire community, because everybody understood that building a center like this would benefit everybody not only in our community, not only across our entire state our region but we’d would really have a national prominence in terms of providing new cutting edge therapies for cancer patients everywhere in the country and literally in the world because we get patients referred here from all over the world for our bone marrow transplant program.

Brandon: Dr. Cowan, thanks again for joining me.

Dr. Cowan: Thank you very much I really enjoyed this.

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