Every year in the United States, cancer patients make 4.5 million trips to the emergency room. As these immune-compromised patients wait to be processed into the cancer clinic for sickness or treatment side effects, they are in an unpleasant and, for them, potentially dangerous environment. After sitting in that situation many times — first with his wife and then with his daughter, both of whom died from cancer — Richard Dean, who is now on the Patient and Family Advisory Council of the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s oncology unit, saw a system failure. “As an engineer, I looked at the pieces that Hopkins had, and I realized there was something missing — a cancer urgent care center,” Dean says. When asked to help create such a center, he used his knowledge of queuing theory and other techniques to determine the number of beds that would be needed, the number of nurses who would be required and more.

For more remarkable stories from the 2020 Winners of the Cancer Community Awards, visit our Heroes of Cancer Care collection.