Two people have garnered recognition for creating new programs to fill unmet patient needs – a robust and innovative urology department and a food pantry for cancer patients.

The SA Cancer Council will honor Dr. Ian Thompson, past director of the UT Health MD Anderson Cancer Center San Antonio (formerly the UT Health Cancer Therapy and Research Center), and Carla Bergner, the organization’s “Volunteer of the Year,” during its spring luncheon fundraiser.

The luncheon, on April 10 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., will be held at the Omni Hotel San Antonio, located at 9821 Colonnade Blvd. Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased here or by calling (210) 450-5571. All proceeds support cancer research and patient assistance at UT Health San Antonio.

“The SA Cancer Council supports UT Health San Antonio in the fight against cancer by providing financial support for both cancer research and patient assistance, as well as volunteer resources for cancer patient treatment, education and community outreach,” stated board president Beverly Koehn in a news release.

Ed Whitacre Jr., former chairman and CEO of General Motors and AT&T, will be the afternoon’s featured speaker. He will discuss the importance of UT Health’s cancer center in San Antonio, and answer questions in a session moderated by Rivard Report Director Robert Rivard.

2017 SA Cancer Council Honorees

Dr. Ian Thompson

Dr. Ian Thompson has practiced urologic oncology for more than 30 years with a special expertise in prostate cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment including surgical care of his patients. During his time at UT Health San Antonio, Thompson developed its urology expertise, which was originally located within the division of surgery, into a full-fledged urology department. Several years ago, it has the highest level of National Institutes of Health funding for a department of urology within the United States.

Dr. Ian Thompson
Dr. Ian Thompson will be honored for his work at the SA Cancer Council Council 2017 Spring Luncheon. Credit: Courtesy photo

“We have attracted some of the best talent globally to the department so any accomplishments are theirs,” Thompson told the Rivard Report. “Credit also goes to our cancer investigators who conduct research, oftentimes late at night, cared for patients in the traditional San Antonio compassionate manner, made sure patients got into study trials, and often times supported them through their treatment.”

A Missouri native, Thompson received his undergraduate degree from West Point and his M.D. degree from Tulane University. Following a residency in urology in San Antonio, he completed a fellowship in Urologic Oncology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Thompson returned to San Antonio first as a faculty urologist at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), then as chief of urology, and completed his military career as chairman of the department of surgery at BAMC.

Thompson joined UT Health in 1998 while on active duty as chief of urology and then joined the university as a tenured professor of urology after retiring from the military in Dec. 1999. He was appointed as director of the UT Health Cancer Center in 2009 and led the cancer center through the National Cancer Institute grant review process to maintain its support as an NCI-designated cancer center three years after his appointment.

Thompson retired from UT Health in December and became president of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital Medical Center and vice president of their market oncology service line in January. CHRISTUS is adopting the dyad leadership model with a physician and hospital administrator working together on physician alignment and operational effectiveness as they oversee the hospital’s mission.

“Now that I’ve retired from the university, I’ve been asked to replicate their top-notch urological cancer program across the (CHRISTUS) hospital for other types of cancers,” Thompson said.

This program approach is not limited to cancers, and could be applied to patient needs in orthopedics, senior behavioral health, and gastroenterology, for example. Physicians understand patient needs well, so Thompson relies on their expertise, along with skilled nursing staff, and specialized facilities and equipment to build these innovative programs.

“In San Antonio we have remarkably talented physicians,” Thompson said. “Really, all we are trying to do is ensure they are matched up with patients in a facility that supports the needs of both the patients and physicians in order to achieve the very best outcomes.”

Carla Bergner – Volunteer of the Year

Bergner decided to support the SA Cancer Council a few years ago for personal reasons and because of the organization’s focus.

“Our family has been touched by the loss of loved ones to cancer,” Bergner said. “I learned about the SA Cancer Council when we came to San Antonio in 2010 and how this all-volunteer organization works tirelessly to raise money that goes directly to patient assistance and cancer research.”

Bergner volunteered on the Council’s board from 2011-2013. During her last year as a board member, Bergner also served as vice president for patient services, working closely with the cancer center’s director of patient services Mary Jackson. The Patient Wellness Center assists cancer patients by providing essential support services. Basic nutrition, especially, can be a challenge for patients who struggle financially.

SA Cancer Council volunteer Carla Bergner packs boxes of food for patients at the CTRC Food Pantry.
SA Cancer Council volunteer Carla Bergner packs boxes of food for patients at the CTRC Food Pantry. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

To better serve the needs of these patients, Bergner worked with fellow SA Cancer Council board member B.J. Mamuzic, along with Jackson. Representing both the SA Cancer Council and the CTRC, the trio applied to the San Antonio Food Bank to become an authorized pantry. It is now the first medical needs-based food pantry in San Antonio.

“We became an authorized food pantry in late 2013 when we officially opened,” Bergner said. “I’ve been volunteering to support the food pantry ever since.”

Patients who are struggling financially should inquire at the CTRC Wellness Center. If they meet the food pantry eligibility requirements, patients receive free boxes of non-perishable food for the duration of their treatment. The Wellness Center’s dietitian includes a flyer for the San Antonio Food Bank in every box to alert patients and their families on how to find the nearest SA Food Bank partner location. Travel toiletries are also included in each box, for those patients traveling to San Antonio for long-term treatment.

In the last 12 months the CTRC food pantry has distributed almost 2,200 pounds of food, all paid for by the SA Cancer Council. In this same time period, more than 112 patients and 258 household members have benefited from the boxes of nonperishable food.

Bergner continues to oversee the cancer patient food pantry, maintaining its inventory and restocking, picking up orders from the San Antonio Food Bank, and packaging and delivering food boxes for patients about once a month or so. Bergner said she relies on family, friends, and dedicated SA Cancer Council members to volunteer their time to keep the food pantry operating.

“With the SA Cancer Council, you can volunteer as much as your passion and schedule permits,” she said.

Bergner stressed how the SA Cancer Council always is looking for more volunteers. For more information, click here.

Avatar photo

Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science and veteran affairs.