You could make a good case that the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act was the biggest health care news story in the nation this year. That’s surely what the attention of the press and public was trained on June 28.
You could also say that the decision by the National Cancer Institute to designate the University of Kansas Medical Center as one of its elite cancer centers was the health care story of the year for Kansas.
What’s that? You didn’t realize KU Med had achieved its greatest research goal of the past decade?
The news was easy to miss.
Word of KU’s triumph came on the same day as the court’s ruling. It slipped out as a brief Facebook posting that evening from U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.
“I am pleased that the University of Kansas has been given a green light, and I look forward to a formal announcement of their National Cancer Institute designation,” he wrote.
The ensuing stories about KU were all but drowned out by the competing news from D.C.
Some people on and off the KU Med campus who have had a stake in the designation effort are decidedly steamed that Roberts let the news out so casually instead of letting the medical center have a hand in making the announcement on a day when it wasn’t likely to be upstaged.
And they’re not happy that Roberts placed himself at the center of the story when other people did the real heavy lifting to earn the National Cancer Institute’s approval.
Becoming an NCI-designated cancer center is truly a big deal. It will mean millions of dollars in federal grants and a chance to become a big-league player in cancer research.
The medical center had been getting encouraging words for weeks about its chances.
Apparently, the final verdict didn’t come until a June 25 meeting of an NCI advisory panel. KU found out soon after.
So did Roberts’ office. As a customary courtesy, NCI notified Roberts on June 28 about KU’s designation. Roberts was asked not to share the information widely; KU would be making the formal announcement.
But Roberts thought it best to get the word out quickly.
“We knew the news would break that night. Let’s just let people know we got some great news,” said Sarah Little, his spokesman.
Little said the senator’s office notified KU officials before posting on Facebook.
KU Med will have a second shot at making news about the NCI designation. The formal announcement at the medical center is expected next Thursday, with Washington dignitaries in attendance. At least according to Roberts, there’s no reason to believe that it will be anticlimactic.
“His reasoning is it’s such great news, you can’t have enough good things to say about it,” Little said.