Hampton University
Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute Holds Press Conference to Bring Awareness to Historical Funding Disparities in the Virginia General Assembly
09/10/2020 - #37

HAMPTON, Va. - (September 10, 2020) – The Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute (HUPTI) held a press conference on Wednesday, September 2nd in front of the historic Emancipation Oak to bring attention to funding that was promised to the proton cancer center by federal, state and local officials, but has yet to be fully supported.

Mr. Bill Thomas, Hampton University Associate Vice President of Government Relations, spoke on the reasoning behind this vital call to action to be treated equally.

“Over the past 10 years, other private institutions have received funding from the state government, yet they have told us consistently that Hampton University could not receive funds from the Virginia General Assembly because we are a private institution.  Yet they have already provided funds to other private entities in several instances. We gave the legislators the statistics of our patients, and once the Virginia Department of Health did their analysis, they determined that cancer is the leading cause of death in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Thomas said.

Some of the other private institutions that have received state funding include Liberty University’s medical school, which received $20.5 million in 2019 and $59 million for Eastern Virginia Medical Center, which was supported by Governor Ralph Northam when he was a state senator. This school is also his alma mater. During this same time, Northam asked for funds for ODU and Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, but none of this was originally in the state’s proposed budget. The Democrats held the majority at that time, in the Senate by only one vote (20-19) as one vote would create a tie and Republicans would be able to break the tie in their favor.  Senator Northam went to the other side of the aisle and demanded funding for EVMS and was promised this funding in exchange for his key vote on two Republican powerful committees.  Ultimately, the Democratic Governor Tim Kaine added funding for then Senator Northam’s request so Democrats could continue their control of the Senate committees.  This is a clear demonstration that the Legislature can fund public and private entities.  They simply have to determine that it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to support the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute like these other institutions.

Fifteen years ago, Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey had the dream and vision to build HUPTI, which has now treated over 3,000 patients with breast, lung, prostate, GI, brain, spine, pediatric cancers, and others.   It is the largest free-standing proton therapy facility in the world. This month, HUPTI is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

Several supporters of the Proton Therapy Institute, including former Republican Virginia State Delegate David Yancey; U.S. Air Force veteran and HUPTI graduate Lawrence Davis and Attorney Ida McPherson spoke in support of the need for these vital funds to ensure HUPTI continues to ease human misery and save lives.

David Yancey, whose father is now a prostate cancer survivor and recent graduate of the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute spoke on how grateful he is for the care and treatment his father received at this life-saving center.

“Hampton University’s Proton Therapy Institute helped take away the pain of cancer from my father. My family is so grateful for the doctors, the staff, nurses, even the security guard who helped my father every day in and out of the wheelchair so we could get his treatments done. They were family,” Yancey said. “As we factor in what’s going on with COVID, in the same way I would encourage the state of Virginia to look at what we’re doing on the national side in the fight against COVID, by having everyone work together, the pharmaceuticals, the research, the institutions of higher learning, working together to find a vaccine on COVID, the Commonwealth of Virginia could find a way to work together; private, public institutions,  private hospitals, everybody working together to find a cure for this debilitating disease.”

Lawrence Davis lives in Portsmouth, which has the highest death rate of prostate cancer in the state of Virginia. “We have an answer to prostate cancer here in Hampton. It is a shame that this state has such a high rate of cancer. Our Governor said he’s everybody’s doctor and friend. During his election, he said he just wanted to take care of ailments, regardless of political affiliation. I’m asking him and his legislators to take care of the ailments of the people in this state through the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute. It has been a great honor to have my cancer taken care of there. You have a jewel right here! And there is very little being done. It’s a shame and a disgrace.”

Attorney Ida McPherson is a breast cancer survivor and advocate for HUPTI. “I stand here today as a champion for equality and justice. Often the voices of privilege, greed, evil and oppression cover the facts and the reality of the truth which lies just below the surface. In America, it’s easier to talk about criminal justice reform than it is to talk about economic reform. In America, it’s easier to talk about riots and protest than it is to talk about community banking and access to capital. Rather than being so highly dependent on Medicaid, which is breaking the bank of most state governments, why don’t we talk about how we can fund institutions like Hampton University that can make a real difference in healthcare and the most vulnerable communities? The privileged and the greedy don’t want to talk about those things and they like to keep you distracted with a lot of nonsense as opposed to trying to figure out where real money is,” Attorney McPherson said.

Bill Thomas ended the press conference in his comment that all HUPTI is asking for is to be treated fairly and equally. Thomas said: “What matters today is coming to a solution. We’re saving Black people, White people, People of Color. Color does not matter. Cancer does not wait. In this COVID-19 pandemic, cancer is one of the leading underlying medical conditions that causes death,” Mr. Thomas said. “Dr. Harvey has always told us if you don’t provide results or come up with issues that impact the saving of lives or the development and endowment of our institution, we have nothing. He also said, “If history tells us nothing else, even today we can no longer wait for anybody to do what we need and must demand for ourselves.”

For additional information, please call (757) 727-5310 or email bill.thomas@hamptonu.edu.

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