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Pittsfield cancer center renamed in honor of David E. Phelps, longtime Berkshire Health Systems leader

Hillcrest Campus of Berkshire Medical Center combines oncology services (copy)

In this 2016 photo, Yankuha Fan checks the calibration of a linear accelerator at the BMC Cancer Center, now known as the Phelps Cancer Center.

PITTSFIELD — Nearly 10 years ago, David E. Phelps was instrumental in shaping a Pittsfield cancer care center associated with one of the country’s top health-care institutions. As of today, that center will carry his name.

Berkshire Health Systems announced Wednesday that the former BMC Cancer Center will be called the Phelps Cancer Center.

David Phelps smiles at table (copy)

David E. Phelps, retired president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems, is being honored for his role in creating a Pittsfield cancer center that operates in a collaborative with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The center is now known as the Phelps Cancer Center. 

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The tribute honors Phelps’ role in creating a facility that allows patients in the Berkshires to have “streamlined” access to health care practitioners with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The center opened at BMC’s Hillcrest Campus in the fall of 2013.

“Dave has given our community a priceless gift,” Barton Raser, chair of the BHS board of trustees, said in a statement. “What we have right here in the Berkshires at the cancer center is hope. And the promise that no cancer patient is ever alone.”

Phelps retired as president and CEO of BHS in January. A decade ago, a family member’s experience with cancer prompted him to connect with Dana-Farber. That led to a permanent relationship between the two institutions and the creation of what’s known as the Dana-Farber Cancer Care Collaborative.

Berkshire Medical Center was the collaborative’s first member.

Elizabeth Liebow, a senior vice president with Dana-Farber, said the connection with BMC and other community hospitals “expand what’s possible” for patient care.

“BMC and Dana-Farber have been involved in a 10-year relationship of respect and mutual learning,” she said in a statement.

Through the collaborative, patients in the Berkshires are connected to specialists with Dana-Farber and can take part in clinical trials. Staff with the local center gain professionally, the hospital says, by engaging with other collaborative members and Dana-Farber specialists.

The goal, officials say, is to better serve Berkshires patients.

According to BHS, the original vision for the cancer center was to be able to “smoothly coordinate the highest quality care for patients in a convenient, close-to-home location [and] also offer integrated, whole-patient care for patients and their families, including social worker support, fitness, acupuncture, nutrition assistance, and other types of integrative wellness programming.”

“One of Dave’s greatest accomplishments during his tenure was the establishment of the cancer center,” said Darlene Rodowicz, Phelps’ successor as president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems. Phelps could not be reached for comment.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Managing editor for innovation

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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