Meeting Notes for 2/28/18: Rotary Fights Hunger, prostate cancer care

After a beautiful piano prelude by Joan Knoertzer, President John opened the luncheon meeting with a whack of the Rotary Bell. All stood to sing “God Bless America,” and a spirited one it was.

Laura Thomas came to the podium for the Inspiration. “I thought I’d read a poem by Shel Silverstein for all you snowbirds and non-snowbirds,” Laura began. She then read the iconic artist-poet’s “Weir-Bird.”

Birds are flyin’ south for winter.

Here’s the Weird-Bird headin’ north,
Wings a-flappin’, beak a-chatterin’,
Cold head bobbin’ back ‘n’ forth.

He says, “It’s not that I like ice
Or freezin’ winds and snowy ground.

It’s just sometimes it’s kind of nice
To be the only bird in town.”

John returned to the podium, and extended his greetings to the full room. “There are no guests today, but we do have a visiting Rotarian, Minesh Mehta, from Rotary West.” Following a hearty ovation in greeting from the members, John continued: “A wonderful event happened this week. We have received approval of our Global Grant for $94,000! This will fund eight stations for neo-natal care, which will save an expected 3,000 babies a year. We were able to leverage our [Club] contribution of $3,000 thirty times.” John underscored the power of leverage attained by our Club’s donations.

Norma Sarkar then announced the upcoming District Conference, which will take place May 4-6 at Marriott Eagle Crest. “We are truly an international district,” remarked Norma. “The theme – ‘People of Action Making a Difference.’” An array of speakers will cover such subjects as water resource quality and tree conservation. “But what would a conference be without fun?” The entertainment – “a fascinating tour of the Yankee Air Museum” for attendees.

Next, John asked Todd Kephart to come up for an announcement. “I feel like the Club’s version Punxsutawney Phil,” Todd began, amid good-natured laughter. “Spring is around the corner, and this year’s Rotary Food Drive is underway…We’re projecting preparing 80,000 meals, and, for the fifth year in a row, gifts to Food Gatherers will be matched 3 to 1.” Bravo! Please contact Todd if you would like to assist him and Committee members to pack meals, or to make a donation to Food Gatherers.

John: “One of our goals this year is to enable members to pursue their interests. Downs Herold conducted a survey, you may remember, titled ‘What’s Your Rotary Score?’ Do you read The Rotarian regularly? Give yourself five points. Do you wear your Rotary pin in public? Five points.” John urged members to take or retake the survey. He also commended John White in preparing a helpful sheet. Though titled prosaically Bite-size Jobs Available, John’s list, filling both front and back, highlighted a myriad of small jobs essential to the proper maintenance of Club activities and services. From “Classification Manager,” to luncheon “Cashier” (during our tenure at Weber’s), to “Mentors” and “G&TO Staffer,” each position is important, and fills a real void. As President John emphasized, “There is no such thing as a ‘small’ job.” Please contact John White regarding any of the jobs you would like to take over.

Speaker: New treatments offer hope for prostate cancer patients

Dennis Powers then came up to introduce our speaker, Dr. Daniel Spratt. “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer that afflicts men,” noted Dennis. “Dr. Spratt, an Assistant Professor of Radiology Oncology, chairs the prostate cancer clinical research team at the U-M and heads its prostate cancer radiotherapy program…In 2016, the Assn. of Residents in Radiation Oncology at the U-M Hospital recognized him as Teacher of the Year. This afternoon he will update us on the latest diagnostic and treatment advances to combat prostate cancer.” Then, Dennis made it personal: “What distinguishes a great doctor is empathy…When I was diagnosed last spring, Dr. Spratt was with me the whole way.”

Dr. Spratt got straight to the facts: “Fifty percent of men will get cancer; [of that] one in seven will get prostate cancer.” He showed a diagram illustrating both a healthy human cell and a cancer cell. “The cancer cell’s really dumb. It just wants to grow and spread.” Dumb, perhaps, but as Dr. Spratt would explain, potentially deadly. “The prostate, a walnut-sized gland located behind the male reproductive organs, and between the bladder and colon, is the Grand Central Station of that part of the body,” asserted Spratt. “P.C. kills more men than brain tumors and other cancers.” Timing of discovery and type of treatment is essential to success. In regard to PSA screening generally, he saw pros and cons. “PSAs haven’t, in my opinion, done harm, but if physicians tell all men to get treatment, that’s a problem.” At the same time, however, insurance cutbacks “may be contributing to slightly more men dying” as a result of fewer men getting screened. He cited the frightening figure of 60,000 fewer screenings nationwide.

Dr. Spratt then explained how the prostate cancer grading system has been updated and made more accurate in recent years. “It used to be that if you had an elevated PSA, you got a biopsy. [You would] be graded on a scale of 6 to 10.” Today’s system is considerably more comprehensive. In addition, he clarified that P.C. “isn’t assigned a ‘stage’ level, like Stage 1 or Stage 2 breast cancer.” Prostate cancer is a slow killer, he noted, but eminently treatable if caught early. “What is radiation therapy? You don’t see it, don’t smell it or feel it. [Treatment today] consists of a much higher dose, and is very concentrated.” Indeed, through the use of linear accelerators and highly improved radiation delivery, Spratt underscored the central difference from treatment today and that of just 30 years ago: “In the 80s you consulted with your doctor and you got an x-ray. They would radiate the whole pelvic cavity. You would get injury to your bladder, rectum, etc.” In the 90s, by contrast, 3-D imaging was better, “but they were still hitting healthy organ [tissue] with high-dose radiation.” Since the 2000s treatment has been enhanced substantially by use of supercomputers which “home in on the majority of prostate cancer cases.” Then, in 2010, came the big advance: IGRT – Image-Guided RT – you hit the bull’s eye every time.” Gold markers are inserted into the gland, and remain there, telling doctors where to aim the radiation. Another treatment, which Spratt calls “the real game-changer,” is called Space OAR – the creation of several centimeters of space between the rectum and prostate. This enables radiologists to hit cancer cells without harming the rest of the gland or nearby organs. Of Space OAR, Spratt says, “I also run spinal radiation at U-M, and having a space of a centimeter is like a mile!”

Doctors are also trying to shorten the period of treatment. Hypo-fractionation, for instance, permits higher doses in fewer sessions. “We’re moving more and more to completing treatment in five sessions,” Spratt noted. In conclusion, he pointed out that as a result of these new advances, “cure rates are now equal between surgery and radiation.” Bottom line – men, get checked early.

Administrator’s Notes (by John White)

Monthly membership report

Without any changes in membership, we finished the month of February with 306 Active Rotarians. Average attendance during the month was 34% for the four meetings. Not reported to the district but calculated for club use were the averages of 83 Rotarians and 12 others (mostly guests) at our weekly meetings. Our Engagement Ratio for the month was 53%.

Weekly meeting statistics

Snowbird season and the U-M break contributed to only 76 Rotarians attending to hear Dr. Spratt on February 28. We also did not have any guests. On the positive side, however, we did have two Members-elect (Lauren Heinonen and Heather Kendrick) and two visiting Rotarians (Manish Mehta and B. Yawson of Ann Arbor North). Later in the day, twelve Rotarians, three spouses and one visiting Rotarian enjoyed the Happy Hour at Weber’s Inn.

Makeup cards for roving Rotarians

None this week.