Health care is a competitive arena and partnerships can be beneficial not only to patients but also to providers, which often struggle to deliver affordable, quality services.

A partnership announced last week by officials from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center appears to be spot on in terms of filling a void in health care provision in Niagara County while offering both organizations an opportunity to grow and succeed.

The roots of the new cancer care collaboration go back to 2015, when current Roswell Park President and CEO Candace Johnson first reached out to NFMMC President and CEO Joseph Ruffolo about a possible connection between their two organizations. As Johnson noted during a Feb. 8 press conference, Roswell had an interest in pursuing the partnership at least in part because patients from Niagara Falls were coming to Buffalo for cancer treatment services and the travel wasn’t always easy for all of them. With the establishment of a jointly operated Thoracic Center at Memorial, Niagara County residents won’t have to travel as far to access a wider range of services, from lung cancer screening to cancer treatment and survivorship support.

The agreement represents the first of its kind in the Niagara region and, perhaps most importantly, fills what Memorial Board Chairman James Roscetti described as the “biggest need” of the hospital’s constituency.

The Thoracic Center will focus on the prevention, detection and outpatient treatment of lung cancer and other malignant conditions of the chest and chest wall. Directed by Dr. Sai Yendamuri, FACS, chair and attending surgeon for Roswell Park’s Department of Thoracic Surgery, it responds directly to the high rate of lung and bronchial cancers in this community. Ruffolo noted that the per capita incidence of lung and bronchial cancers in Niagara County is much higher than elsewhere in the state or nation. Cases of lung cancer in Niagara County have risen about 36 percent over the past 40 years and the county’s rate of incidence is one of the highest across the state. The New York State Health Department lists lung cancer as the leading cause of death for women in Niagara County and the second leading cause of death for men. As Ruffolo noted, in addition to the economic opportunities offered to both entities through the partnership, providing easier access to lung cancer screening and care may well result in the most important outcome of all — saving lives.