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The chief executive officer of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center said it was “ideological differences” that caused the organization to end its nearly 30 year long affiliation with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

The chief executive officer of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center said Monday that “ideological differences” caused the organization to end its nearly 30-year affiliation with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

“We needed a partner that would allow us to stay exclusively focused on cancer,” Todd Stevens told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. In contrast, the “cradle-to-grave” service offered by Our Lady of the Lake doesn’t work with cancer care, because the disease and treatments are too specialized.

“Cancer care is all we worry about, all we care about and we don’t foresee that changing under any circumstances,” he said.

A partnership between Mary Bird Perkins and OneOncology is set to become effective Jan. 1. The deal will allow Mary Bird Perkins to tap into the Nashville-based group’s nationwide network of more than 600 providers and 175 locations. Its network has more than 2,100 patients enrolled in 609 active clinical trials.

OneOncology will help Mary Bird Perkins use local philanthropy better, by leveraging donations to go toward avenues of cancer care not covered by medical insurance, such as nutritionists and social workers. “They’re going to be blocking and tackling on the business side,” Stevens said.

Mary Bird Perkins, OneOncology finalize controversial partnership: 'This is an exciting new path'

Mary Bird Perkins and OneOncology announced in August they had reached a deal for an affiliation. The deal caused a shock in Baton Rouge's health care community because of the longstanding relationship between Mary Bird Perkins and OLOL. Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center leadership said they were “stunned” and “disheartened" by the news.

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Centers to join much larger network leaving OLOL 'stunned'

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In October, OLOL announced it would build a $100 million standalone cancer institute that would connect to the hospital. That move caused two high-profile OLOL board members to sever allegiance with the organization, saying the cancer center was a waste of resources.

What does Our Lady of the Lake, Mary Bird Perkins tension mean for Baton Rouge cancer patients?

Our Lady of the Lake plans to build $100M cancer care center in Baton Rouge

Stevens and Dr. Catherine O'Neal, OLOL chief medical officer, said the two sides are meeting weekly to unwind the business agreements that tied the two organizations together, dealing with issues such as leases and access to IT. The goal is to make sure that patients aren’t affected by the transition and continue to receive the best possible care.   

O’Neal said while it “sounds nice” for Mary Bird Perkins to talk about its exclusive focus on cancer, treating the disease takes a comprehensive care team. For example, a patient with kidney cancer needs to see their primary care doctor, a kidney specialist, a kidney surgeon, a medical oncologist and possibly a radiation oncologist. “You need surrounding specialists to wrap around and offer total care,” she said.

OLOL’s comprehensive approach has even extended to routine medical tests. Over the past two years the hospital has included a free cancer screening as part of every CT scan. That has allowed the hospital to catch cancer earlier and earlier.

Mary Bird Perkins takes great pride in pushing competitors such as OLOL to do a better job of treating cancer, Stevens said. The organization can’t take care of all the cancer patients in Louisiana.

“If people keep pushing the envelope, that’s rewarding for us,” he said. “We want to see cancer eradicated.”

Email Timothy Boone at