Minnesota Oncology

Practice History

Minnesota Oncology…then and now

Community Cancer Care for the Twin Cities

At Minnesota Oncology we are proud of our history as innovators – bringing a community-based, integrated cancer care model to the Twin Cities area…and our ongoing dedication to continuing advancements in the treatment of cancer.

More than forty years ago, the early seeds of what is known today as Minnesota Oncology, were planted on both sides of the Mississippi river.  Dr John Brown entered practice on the west side in 1964 as the first formally trained oncologist in community practice in the state of Minnesota, and his colleague and practice partner, Dr. Irving Lerner, was the first physician formally trained in medical oncology to enter private practice in St. Paul in 1967. Back then it would have been difficult to visualize how the care of cancer patients would change over the course of the next 45 years.

It is truly remarkable to think how far we have come since then – when we were all practicing individually, but could see the benefits of synergy by joining as one community-based practice.  We held many dinner meetings over a number of years before it began to come together – first we shared office space, and later we became partners. ~ Burton Schwartz MD

The first joint practice of oncology on the Minneapolis side of the river was Oncologic Consultants, formed by Dr. John Brown, Dr. Ignatio Fortuny, and Dr. Burton Schwartz. In 1985, Dr. Mark Sborov and Dr. Margaret MacRae joined this group and opened the first suburban oncology practice, located in Edina on the campus of Fairview Southdale Hospital.

During the same time period on the St. Paul side of the river, Dr. Lerner with Dr. John Wangsness started St. Paul Internal Medicine, while Dr. Lewis and Dr. Michael Lobell formed St. Paul Hematology and Oncology, and were later joined by Dr Ken Caldwell and Dr Rodger Johnson.  Dr. John Savage was also practicing Gynecologic Oncology in St Paul at that time.

In the mid-90’s, Dr. Schwartz approached the three St. Paul oncology groups, and in 1995 one metropolitan practice known as Minnesota Oncology Hematology, P. A. (MOHPA) was formed. These physicians were destined to become leaders who would help establish the framework for the specialty community cancer care that Twin Cities residents know today.

Growing to Serve

Minnesota Oncology’s history reflects health care in general, in that small has had to become large to provide effectively for an ever more sophisticated and demanding patient base in a climate of limited financial resources.

In 1996, the physicians of MOHPA entered into a long term management services arrangement with a practice management company based in Texas, now US Oncology. Practice leaders sensed the nascent need to link arms with dedicated oncologists and hematologists across the nation – to participate in establishing standards of care, increase access to clinical research trials, attract the most qualified physicians and maximize practice efficiencies by sharing data and fine-tuning best practices.

Over the course of the past decade, the intent and purposes of this affiliation have been fully realized. 

With the rising cost of health care and diminishing resources, it is important for practices to band together to assure access to the very latest evidence-based care, while maximizing practice efficiencies based on the shared knowledge of affiliated practices – Tom Flynn, MD, Practice President

The research capability of US Oncology affiliates has made it possible for the network to contribute to the development of many of the latest cancer-fighting drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use.

The Integrated Care Model

Our practice includes specialists in medical oncology, radiation oncology, hematology, gynecologic oncology and thoracic surgery – as well as on-site laboratory services and access to our specialty oncology care pharmacy.

We believe the best model of care is an integrated approach — to have a dedicated facility with specialists from all the areas of cancer treatment together in one location. When the physicians involved in the various aspects of a patient’s care work together, the patient benefits. For patients who are fatigued and not feeling well, being able to walk in the front door and have everything you need in one location is a huge advantage. ~ Thomas Flynn, MD

Treating the person, not just the disease

Our Full Circle of Care includes access to assistance such as:

  • Social Work and Patient Advocacy
  • Nutrition Therapy
  • Patient Financial Counselors
  • Educational Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Nurse Navigators
  • Survivorship Program
  • Angel Foundation (mnangel.org)

Providing such services is simply an extension of our mission to provide the best possible cancer care. A cancer diagnosis causes tremendous anxiety and it can be difficult for patients to function day to day. If we can help relieve stress, patients can focus on their treatment.   ~ Thomas Flynn, MD

Caring, down to a science

In order to make the practice more easily recognizable in the community, a brand identity change was undertaken in 2009, changing our market brand name from MOHPA to Minnesota Oncology. Our new company logo and tag line represent the science of cancer treatment, as well as the emotional, educational, financial and practical assistance we offer to our patients and their families.

A Bright Future

In recruiting new physicians and staff, Minnesota Oncology works with the leading fellowship programs in the country including the Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota.

“We have the highest quality physicians and nurses on staff anywhere. We seek out practitioners with top-notch educational backgrounds, full certification, and a warm, patient-oriented manner. – Tom Flynn, MD, Practice President

In 2008 our comprehensive integrated cancer center opened on the campus of United Hospital in St. Paul, in partnership with Allina Hospitals & Clinics, Minnesota’s largest health care provider.  Our collaboration with Allina grew in 2009 with the acquisition of the oncology programs at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley.

With over 65 providers – physicians, physician assistants and certified nurse practitioners – practicing in nine clinic locations across the greater Twin Cities metro area, Minnesota Oncology is the largest independent oncology practice in the state of Minnesota.

We want to be in a leadership position as cancer care continues to be defined.  We all have a vested interest in a viable future – assuring access to quality cancer care for generations to come.  That is the legacy we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.  ~ Thomas Flynn, MD