Sioux Falls, SD
An internationally-known cancer researcher speaks about why he left the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Research program for Avera Health.
After 18 months on the job, the sought-after researcher took his international team to Sanford's competition.
Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones says he will begin accepting research applicants in the next month to uncover personalized methods of treating breast cancer at Avera.
This comes after his surprising switch from Sanford Health, after a nine-month recruitment effort to get the prized doctor to Sioux Falls.
With less than one week on the job, Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones gets familiar with the Avera McKennen lab.
The researcher just finished writing another grant application to continue decoding human genetics for individualized breast cancer treatments at Avera.
"I cannot just tell you just how much things are changing, how rapidly," Dr. Leyland-Jones explained in a sit-down interview with KELOLAND News.
As of January 2, Leyland-Jones now serves as the Vice President for Molecular and Experimental Medicine after bringing his 11-member team from Avera's competitor.
For 18-months, Leyland-Jones led the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Research program. He left that job in December.
"We were attracted by (Avera's) mission, its culture. My team are compassionate people. I have deep religious beliefs myself. We've very much loved the concept of delivering quality service guided by Christian values," Dr. Leyland-Jones said.
Leyland-Jones says he began talking with Avera researchers a few months ago, before deciding to leave Sanford Health.
"I was very honored when he, through that pathway, came to me," Dr. Dave Kapaska said, Regional President and CEO of Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center. "Again, the essential part being he had to come to me. He was under contract. We certainly were not going to interfere with that."
Sanford CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft says the healthcare company has moved on after Leyland-Jones' unexpected departure.
"In any enterprise, you invest in the people that you do hoping that they will be with you for the long haul and that it will all work out," Krabbenhoft said. "But that is not always realistic. I've learned, I've been doing this for 32 years, that this happens. We move on. Thankfully we have the resources to just move on."
In the meantime, Leyland-Jones says he'll continue working with his national and international collaborators to find targeted treatments for cancer which will directly benefit patients in the Sioux Falls area.
"It's great being part of this community and delivering care here," Leyland-Jones said. "That was the other reason for the move over to Avera. The team wanted to stay intact and we love this community."
Leyland-Jones says he will accept both Avera and Sanford cancer patients into his research.
Patients will need to be referred by a practicing oncologist unsure of options for treatment.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A grammatical error was corrected in this story.