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A Message of Gratitude to John Ward, MD


Read Time: 2 minutes
Author: Mary Beckerle, PhD

Photo of John Ward
John Ward, MD

When I approached Dr. John Ward in February 2019 asking him to assume this important interim clinical leadership role on top of his clinical care responsibilities and other leadership assignments, I didn't know how long it would last or that it would include overseeing cancer care during a worldwide pandemic. I did know that a major expansion of Huntsman Cancer Institute was about to begin, that our Senator Orrin G. Hatch Proton Therapy Center construction was underway, and our National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center competing renewal site visit would occur in just a few months. In other words, this was no small task. Without hesitation, he said, "Mary, anything Huntsman Cancer Institute needs me to do, absolutely, I'm here." That has been his mantra from the very beginning, from the first day we worked together, and I know it'll be the same going into the future. I'm so grateful to him for his leadership, wisdom, grace, and willingness to take on tough and challenging issues while caring each and every day about each and every person.

Nearly one year ago, we announced our vision for Huntsman Cancer Institute:

Passionate individuals and teams

delivering a cancer-free frontier

through scientific discovery and human touch

As I reflect on that vision, I see John Ward in each phrase. His passion for his work, his commitment to collaboration, his leadership in bringing Huntsman Cancer Institute care to rural patients, his commitment to sponsorship of the next generation, and his advocacy for integration of research and clinical care. And, as we all know, he embodies the power of the human touch in caring for patients and advancing our Huntsman Cancer Institute mission.

I want to share a few quotes from our colleagues at Huntsman Cancer Institute and University of Utah Health about working with Dr. Ward:

"Just last week, John and I were talking about him traveling to Jackson, Wyoming, to see his patients, leaving on a Thursday, working Friday and maybe even Saturday, then coming home. It didn't occur to me how much of a sacrifice that has been, and he's never complained, but he's missed his family. I did a little math, and he's spent somewhere around 500 Friday nights away. John cares about his patients. I know I speak for the hospital leadership in saying we have truly enjoyed your presence, your efforts, and your happy, wise, contributions to all things, so thank you."

—Don Milligan, Huntsman Cancer Institute Cancer Hospital Executive Director

"When we first started getting into telehealth, the comment I heard from John was, 'I don't mind using it if it's bad weather, or a particular circumstance that we need to do it, but in general, I want to go up to Wyoming because how would I hug my patients if I don't see them in person?' I think that just shows his compassion to his patients and that he loves his patients and they love him. We love you, John. You are incredible. You inspire us. Thank you for your leadership, and, more importantly, thank you for being so compassionate to our patients."

—Dan Lundergan, UUHC Interim Chief Executive Officer

"I was there for one of John's patient visits and I walked away from that just feeling even more how remarkable John is because of his commitment to patients, his ability to walk in and make patients feel comfortable, his ability to pick up on the important things in a really efficient way, and for them to leave feeling seen and heard. It is such a pleasure and honor, and I look forward to continue working with you for a long time."

—Saundra Buys, MD, Chief of the Division on Oncology

"This past year has been an enormous growth and learning opportunity for me from you. You have the ability to keep calm during a crisis. I always think of a comment, 'Being religious or being committed to a faith is not the title, it's the actions.' I saw that when I walked rounds with you and you were able to break out in fluent Spanish and start speaking with one of our staff members, or when you see a small piece of litter and you go pick it up. These seem like small things, but they aren't. The totality of it really means that actions speak louder than words. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for leading by example and for inspiring us to do better each day."

—Tom Varghese, MD, MS, Huntsman Cancer Institute Interim Executive Medical Director and Chief Value Officer

We could not have been more fortunate than to have somebody like Dr. Ward helping establish the beautiful culture at Huntsman Cancer Institute, and ensuring it lives on into the future through his leadership. Please join me in thanking John for his past, present, and FUTURE contributions to Huntsman Cancer Institute. With Dr. Ward, the best is always to come.

Cancer touches all of us.