Dr. Thomas Ollila

Dr. Thomas Ollila / Courtesy lifespan corp.
Dr. Thomas Ollila / Courtesy lifespan corp.

PBN Health Care Heroes 2024
Lifespan Cancer Institute hematologist and oncologist

What led you to choose health care as your profession? Medicine in general blends the ability to foster relationships with patients while using fascinating science in their care. Hematology/oncology is special for me in the relationships I make with my patients and also with the ongoing advances that allow me to provide always-improving options.

How have you helped boost the quality of or access to health care? The Future Gen Cancer Scholars program, which I co-run, provides a fun, educational and immersive experience for students from underrepresented minorities in medicine and will help generate more diverse care in the future. Unrelated, the Tour de Rhody bike ride, which I started, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Rhode Island cancer research.

What is the biggest challenge you and your organization are facing this year? There are more people in need than resources available. This is not just trying to find the time to schedule and call patients; it also impairs effectively running programs and performing research. On an organizational level, it’s having enough nurses and staff to keep the infusion center running, the hospital floors open and our patients not waiting in the [emergency room] when there’s no space in the hospital.

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What more do you feel the state can do to help further support the health care sector in Rhode Island? The state needs to better negotiate reimbursements and provide better support so we stop losing talent to nearby states. From a research perspective, having Lifespan, Care New England [Health System] and Brown [University] all separated creates barriers to collaboration.

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