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Helping Wyoming’s Rural Communities Get Cancer Care and Resources

Tasha Harris is director of Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center (SRCC). In addition, she is a certified medical dosimetrist and works in radiation oncology, where she uses a sophisticated treatment planning software to design radiation treatment plans for patients. She participates in various community outreach events and co-authored a grant that SRCC was awarded to help implement cancer prevention and education projects in a five-county region. She enjoys helping others understand the importance of having a healthy lifestyle and living life to the fullest.

tasha backpacking

Why did you decide to join the Community Advisory Board?

I was honored to receive the invitation to join the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) Community Advisory Board and help represent the rural communities of Wyoming. As director of the Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center, an affiliate partner of HCI, I have worked together with HCI on various projects and attended numerous meetings and symposiums. I have seen firsthand the dedication that HCI has to cancer prevention, early detection, innovation, and community outreach. I was excited for the opportunity to collaborate, network, and share ideas and resources with HCI and those from the surrounding communities and states.

What motivates you to help people with cancer and do community outreach work?

When I was seven years old, my grandfather died of cancer. It was one of the only times I have ever seen my mother cry. After that, there was always a part of me that wanted do something to help people with cancer. Later on, when I was in college and just starting school to enter the world of radiation oncology, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Seeing the physical, emotional, and mental struggle she went through inspired me even more to want to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients. We have worked hard to put programs in place with our navigation and survivorship team to treat and support the whole person throughout their cancer and survivorship journey.

I am also very passionate about wellness, prevention, and screenings, and I have the privilege of working with amazing people who are also very passionate about those things. Together we have done a lot of community outreach, received grants, and planned events to help spread the word about the importance of prevention and early detection. One of the grants we were awarded allowed us to hire a cancer resource services coordinator for our region. She has been an invaluable asset to our team and has made a huge impact on our community and our cancer patients.

What is your personal philosophy?

Live life to the fullest while striving to love, lift, and inspire others along the way. There is so much to learn, so much room to grow, so much to experience, and so many people to love and help in this life. And there is no time to waste. Working with cancer patients has taught me that life and health is precious. We don’t know when our lives might take an unexpected turn, so we need to love life and live without regrets.

What is one of the most significant projects you’ve worked on?

I have been a part of our cancer center from its beginnings and have had the opportunity to help build and shape our center from the ground up. It has been an amazing learning experience. Last summer, I headed up planning our five-year anniversary celebration. We invited our patients and the community, and it was a huge success. We had a special tribute recognizing and celebrating all of our patients, past and present. It was so touching to see all those survivors and to know we played a part in helping them get through cancer right here at home. Before our cancer center was here, patients always had to travel to Salt Lake or farther for treatment. Being able to offer our patients cutting-edge treatments with highly skilled and compassionate staff and without the burden and stress of traveling has been amazing to be a part of.

What do you love most about living and working in Wyoming?

I love the people. I am surrounded by so many wonderful and genuine people here in Wyoming. I also love the vast opportunities for beautiful and inspiring outdoor adventures. The great outdoors is my happy place, and I have found so much peace, clarity, and joy from exploring the beautiful mountains near us with my family and friends.

How have you adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic?

We have implemented some new processes to help protect our patients and staff, and those have continually evolved. We put things in place to be able to see some of our patients via telemedicine, which has been a great option to have. And we have just continued moving forward striving to provide excellent care to our patients, and trying to help and support them in any way that we can through the COVID-19 challenges.

The Community Advisory Board comprises 36 members from Utah and the Mountain West who serve as Ambassadors of Huntsman Cancer Institute. The board provides strategic input to prioritize work and engage the community in cancer research, services, and prevention efforts.