Whether pursuing a career change or cancer treatment, Bill Raffield is the kind of man who goes for what he wants. After receiving a B.S. in physics, Bill had a career in the Air Force, where he planned and evaluated instructional systems for the military’s intercontinental ballistic missiles program during the Vietnam War. He became a captain, serving as combat crew commander and wing instructor and discovered he enjoyed “arranging resources to accomplish the mission,” he said. “At the time, I didn’t know what that was called, but in business, that’s operations.” After his military career ended, Mr. Raffield didn’t settle into the field he had chosen, but instead embarked in a new direction, starting out as a territory sales manager for Michelin Tire and ending up in management and operations for Truckstops of America and Universal Tire. “I tended to say, ‘I’m going to do what fits me.”
While in the military he had earned a master’s degree in public administration and later he received a doctorate in industrial management with his eye on another goal: teaching. Since 1991, he has been at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he has served as business professor, director of the school’s Division of Business and senior associate dean of the business college. Six years ago he chose to leave his administrative positions to return to teaching as an associate professor of operations and supply chain management, saying “I tend to rebel at being painted into a corner.”
That mindset help Mr. Raffield look closely at all his options when diagnosed with prostate cancer after his PSA levels began an upward climb last year. His brother-in-law, who lives in Knoxville, had had proton therapy for prostate cancer three years prior, so Bill knew something about the treatment. He also knew that with an active career and family life, including grandchildren who live nearby, he didn’t want to struggle with the side effects that came with other treatment options such as surgery and brachytherapy.
“My brother-in-law was amazed at how little impact there was in terms of side effects and everything else. Several friends elected to do brachytherapy and experienced significant side effects from the treatment. With surgery, a lifetime of incontinence and impotence was no deal,” said Bill. “But first and foremost was the cure rate for proton therapy—as good or better than anything else out there. Putting it all together, it was pretty clear proton was the way to go.”
Although Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota had recently opened, Mr. Raffield chose Provision for a variety of factors, like the length of time the Knoxville center had been treating patients, and because nearby family afforded a shorter daily commute (Rochester is a 100 mile trip from the Raffield’s home in Forest Lake, Minnesota) and because of the advanced medical care available at Provision. Bill was able to receive SpaceOAR gel, a one-time hydrogel injection as an alternative to the balloon, which typically is inserted daily into the rectum of prostate patients prior to treatment for protection from radiation exposure. “The hydrogel was icing on the cake,” he says.
And while the time away from his wife and grandchildren in Minnesota has been difficult, Bill said he appreciates the supportive patient care he received from Provision, and the patients he met along the way. “It’s a happy place,” Bill said. “I came down here two weeks after my diagnosis, and I was just blown away by the culture and atmosphere of Provision. That sealed the deal. I felt and continue to feel at home here.”