Officials celebrate construction of proton therapy center in Knoxville

Sunday, April 22, 2012
By Carly Harrington

After years of dreaming of bringing proton therapy treatment for cancer to East Tennessee, local businessman Terry Douglass and his team at Provision Health Alliance celebrated Friday the start of construction on a $119 million facility in Dowell Springs.

Dozens of elected and community leaders gathered to mark the occasion, which Douglass said was a tribute to all involved.

"It's not about me," Douglass said. "It's really about taking the gifts and the resources we've been given, including the team that we've got which is fantastic and putting something together that we can share with the community, particularly those who are in the most vulnerable position of their life, and hopefully provide them with some physical healing and spiritual healing along the way. And in doing that all you can be is thankful and blessed."

The 90,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to open in early 2014, will be able to treat 1,500 patients per year with a noninvasive and painless form of radiation treatment that has minimal to no side effects.

The center will be integrated into the research program at the University of Tennessee for training young professionals. And plans are being developed to eventually manufacture proton therapy equipment.

"As we've gotten into this with our background in product development and commercialization of health care products, the thought is maybe we can do this better than it's currently done," said Douglass, who cofounded CTI Molecular Imaging.

If they can lower the price and the size, they would be able "to provide proton therapy to more patients around the world," Douglass said.

Gov. Bill Haslam called the proton therapy center "a big deal." Not only will it provide leading-edge health care, but he said the facility will offer good-paying jobs and contribute to the tax base.

"This is the kind of investment and endeavor that other states would fight for," Haslam said.

Gordon Webster of Kingston came to thank Douglass for "all the people you're going to help" by bringing proton therapy to East Tennessee.

Webster returned in February from Jacksonville, Fla., where he received proton therapy treatment at the only facility currently operating in the Southeast.

"You leave proton therapy like an evangelist. You want to go tell people all about it. What he's doing to bring this here is wonderful," Webster said.



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