St. Francis University Center for Rural Cancer Survivorship,

Dr. Ivan Mulligan, co-director of the Center for Rural Cancer Survivorship, speaks on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, at the DiSepio Institute for Rural Health and Wellness on the St. Francis University campus in Loretto.

LORETTO – With research showing higher cancer fatalities in rural areas, St. Francis University’s School of Health Sciences is hoping to provide a space where cancer patients and survivors can optimize their quality of life. 

During an event Thursday evening at the DiSepio Institute for Rural Health and Wellness, the university unveiled its Center for Rural Cancer Survivorship, which was developed to provide affordable outpatient services to cancer patients and survivors, those newly diagnosed and long finished with treatment, with a focus on improving quality of life. 

“This truly is a mission fit for St. Francis,” said the Rev. Malachi Van Tassell, T.O.R., President of the university. 

Faculty, students and staff from St. Francis’s Master of Cancer Care, physical and occupational therapy programs will collaborate to provide services such as physical fitness assessments, supervised exercise programs, rehabilitative services, nutritional counseling, weight management education and psychological and spiritual support. 

Dr. Ivan Mulligan, one of the co-directors of the center, said expanding the university’s current programs and partnering with area medical facilities will help fill the gap in treatment for local cancer patients and survivors. 

“What happens when people come home?” he said. 

Research supports the positive effects of exercise throughout treatment and reduces the chances of cancer returning to those in remission and their reliance on long-term medication, Mulligan explained. 

A lab in the DiSepio Institute allows students in the Master of Cancer Care program to determine the best way cancer patients or survivors can use exercise to fight fatigue from chemotherapy or other side effects from medication or other treatments. 

Following a colon cancer diagnosis, major surgery to remove cancerous nodules in his lungs and several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Brother Shamus McGrenra said he was ready to give up. 

“I was wiped out,” he said. 

McGrenra said he worked with several students in program who helped him return to bicycling after he won his battle with cancer, calling himself “living hope” for others fighting the disease. 

More information on the Center for Rural Cancer Survivorship can be found at

​Jocelyn Brumbaugh is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @JBrumbaughTD.

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