PSU President appointed to cancer center board

  Monday, March 30, 2020 3:00 PM
  Alumni, News, People and Society

Pittsburg, KS

PSU President Steve Scott

The president of Pittsburg State University interacts with alumni almost daily. But Steve Scott’s recent appointment to The University of Kansas Cancer Center Community Advisory Board brought the unexpected chance to interact with two former Gorillas in a way that’s a bit more personal than usual.

In 2007, just as Scott finished serving his first year as provost and vice president of academic affairs, he learned he had prostate cancer. He was 54.

After successful surgery at M.D. Anderson and recovery, he was open to fielding questions from colleagues and acquaintances who, upon learning of their own diagnosis, sought him out for advice.

“I visited about what might lie ahead and tried to be encouraging, because people did that for me,” Scott said.

Last year, he again agreed to share that story at the invitation of the KU Cancer Center, which held an event for area men at Ascension Via Christi, Pittsburg.

“They wanted someone to come and talk about their experience, what it was like post-treatment, to encourage people to do preventative care and testing, to create awareness,” Scott said.

His public telling of that story prompted a unique invitation: to serve as a member of the Community Advisory Board.

“The position I hold, and my survivorship — I can do a lot of good as a member of this group in terms of creating awareness and serving as an ambassador,” Scott said.

The American Cancer Society ranks prostate cancer as the most common type of cancer among men in the U.S., other than skin cancer. The KU Cancer Center became a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in 2012. It is the only cancer center in the region, and one of only 71 in the nation, to receive this distinction, a symbol of research and clinical excellence. Its mission, through its innovative approach to drug discovery, delivery, and development, is to transform cancer research and clinical care delivered in Kansas and western Missouri.

“There has been a lot of attention, and appropriately so, to breast cancer over the years,” Scott said. “Now, there’s a growing interest in doing something more publicly regarding prostate cancer. That’s where I come in.”

The primary responsibility of members of the board include sharing community priorities and concerns with the board, assisting with the development of the cancer center’s strategic plan, helping to evaluate the center’s outreach efforts, meeting with KU Cancer Center leaders and researchers, and sharing information about KU Cancer Center with networks, communities, and organizations.

Scott, who is a vocal proponent of self-advocacy and testing, said he was not only agreeable to serving, he was honored to have been asked.

“That’s where I can help,” Scott said. “I might be able to marshal some forces because of my very public persona.”

He noted that in the 13 years since his diagnosis, researchers have made great strides, and there are new methods of treatment.

“That research needs to continue, and it needs to continue for all types of cancers,” Scott said.

What Scott didn’t anticipate was the chance to see two graduates of the PSU Biology Department in action as leaders of the board and the KU Cancer Center: At the orientation meeting, which gathered representatives from several related groups and backgrounds, were Roy Jensen, M.D., and Gary Doolittle, M.D.

Jensen, who earned his bachelor’s degree from PSU in 1980, is now the director of the KU Cancer Center. He also serves as president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes — an organization of 98 leading academic cancer centers in North America, which includes 70 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers.

Doolittle, who also earned his bachelor’s degree in 1980, is a professor of medicine at KU, a dedicated researcher, and holds numerous titles related to the study and treatment of cancer, including medical director of the Masonic Cancer Alliance, the outreach network of KU Cancer Center

“They both attended PSU together, and it’s really neat to be able to witness first-hand what they’ve gone on to achieve,” Scott said. “I’m really proud to be part of the board, and proud to see how they’re making a difference.”