As Paul Dyer scanned through a coffee table book about Knoxville while waiting in the lobby at Provision Center for Proton Therapy for his treatment, a name suddenly seized his attention: Terry Douglass.
The chapter was about Provision and outlined the role Douglass, chairman and founder, played in its start-up as well as the prior successful start-up and sale of CTI. That company, now owned by Siemens, developed and brought positron emission tomography, or PET scanning, to the healthcare market.
“I knew it had to be the same Terry Douglass,” Dyer says.
More than 50 years before, the two were classmates at the University of Tennessee’s School of Engineering—Douglass in electrical engineering, Dyer in the mechanical engineering program.
Dyer says he had no clue Douglass was the entrepreneur behind Provision before he traveled from Eagleville, a small town in middle Tennessee, for treatment. At a recent reunion with some fellow classmates, he says, he had learned about Douglass’s involvement with CTI.
“We always knew he would do something important,” Dyer says.
Although the two were in different programs, they had a couple of classes together and hung out with the same crowd.
“I always had the sinful hope that he wouldn’t do so well on tests,” Dyer says, jokingly. “He scored almost perfect and the professor would not give a curve.”
After college, the two went their separate ways—Dyer going to work for DuPont and retiring a few years ago to the family farm, Douglass going to a position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the first in a series of steps toward the launch of CTI. They had not seen each other since.
When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was Dyer’s primary care doctor who suggested proton therapy. He found Provision online, set up an appointment and was duly impressed with the responsiveness of the staff and, especially, Dr. Marcio Fagundes, who called his doctor and then Dyer personally as he was considering whether to choose proton therapy. In the end, Dyer and his wife decided to travel the 380 round trip miles each day to Provision for treatment.
The Friday before Dyer’s graduation, he and Douglass were reunited, posing for a photo and chatting for a few minutes about old times.
“I am so blessed that people like Terry have had ideas like PET and proton therapy and that, somehow, he has pulled all this together and made it a world-class facility,” Dyer says.
For Douglass, it was a gratifying reconnection.
“It is very rewarding and humbling to know that something of which I have been a part is impacting the lives of those whom I knew decades ago,” he says. “We never know how what we do impacts others, and we should all be thankful and blessed that we can be a part of something unique that changes lives and patient care for the better.”