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Cancer treatment center welcomes new director

Hospital news | Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Contact: Thomas Hottman

Susan Morton took over as the director of the Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center in May

Susan Morton sees her new role as the director of the Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center as a supportive role for other staff. Morton feels lucky to have great supervisors working under her, and said her role is to support them and assist them in their own leadership roles: it is her No. 1 job, she said. "That tends to be what I do, is surround myself with good people," Morton said. Morton started in her new role in May, taking over from previous director Shirley Voight, who had been in the position for more than 20 years. The Cancer Treatment Center opened in 1990, and was the area's only state-of-the-art cancer treatment facility. Voight became director in May 1991.

Morton worked as a nurse at Sky Lakes Medical Center for 26 years before taking the role at the Cancer Treatment Center; before that, she was a nurse for nine years. At Sky Lakes, Morton managed the post-surgical services unit.

At the end of her tenure at the Cancer Treatment Center, Voight gave about a year's notice of her retirement, Morton said, so the women were able to work together through the transition. "The opportunity to work in a place like this, it would have been an honor to work here," Morton said.

Impact of cancer

Like much of the staff at the Cancer Treatment Center, Morton has been personally affected by cancer, she said. Her father passed away about 20 years ago from lung cancer. Many of the staff at the center have been touched by cancer, and may be drawn to their current jobs because of that, Morton said.

"It's something that touched my life and has improved by leaps and bounds over the years," she said, adding that many medical advances have been made since she witnessed her own father's treatments.

In addition to supporting the Cancer Treatment Center supervisors, Morton regularly visits with other staff, physicians and patients. She wants to be a good role model, she said. "We're in this together," she said.

Morton understands that the nurses, oncologists, radiation technicians and other staff are the ones who have the tough job, and have the most interaction with patients. That's why she sees her job as a support role. "I'm the servant to get them everything they need," she said.

During her first week, during a training at the center's front desk, Morton was surprised at how many people she knew who walked through the door. "We're a fairly small community, and it's great that we can offer them this service," she said of the Klamath Falls community. It's great that the community has access to the newest treatments through the cancer center, Morton said. "It's an honor to be part of this," she said.

Patient experience

Morton was also an "early adopter" of Sky Lakes' Service Excellence program, which aims to help patients and visitors to the hospital have the best experience possible, said spokesman Tom Hottman. Morton chaired the Service Excellence council for two years.

"It's something that makes a big difference in the patient experience," Hottman said of the program.

The "culture" of helping patients have a positive experience is still important to Morton at the Cancer Treatment Center, she said, and she's happy her staff understands its importance as well. "They really have their hearts in it," Morton said of the staff.

Prevention work

Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center director Susan Morton has also been involved in the Blue Zones Project and Oregon Healthiest State initiatives.

Both initiatives focus on the prevention of health issues to help people to lead longer, healthier lives. That's an important message to Morton: many of the cancers treated at the Cancer Treatment Center could potentially be prevented by avoiding unhealthy habits, such as smoking, tanning, or eating too much red meat, she said. "If you want to live to be 100, it starts with prevention," she said.

The Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center also offers a variety of information on prevention, and offers cancer screenings, including mammograms. For more information about the Cancer Treatment Center and cancer screening tips, visit the Sky Lakes website at