Providence announces new executive medical director for cancer center

October 30, 2013
A longtime Portland oncologist has joined Providence Cancer Center as executive medical director. Kevin Olson, M.D. will lead the program, which is the largest in the state, spanning multiple Providence hospitals. Providence Cancer Center also is world-renowned for immunotherapy research and offers extensive diagnostic, therapeutic and support services for patients fighting a variety of cancers. Every year, Providence cares for more than 5,300 newly diagnosed cancer patients in Oregon.

"We are thrilled Dr. Olson is joining Providence," said Doug Walta, M.D., chief executive for clinical programs, physician strategy, outreach and diversity for Providence in Oregon. "I am honored to share that Dr. Olson tells us he was drawn to Providence Cancer Center because of our very high quality standards and our Mission."

Medicine has been part of Dr. Olson's entire life. His father, Donald Olson, M.D., was a physician who practiced at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, served as PSVMC medical staff president and medical director of Providence Health Plan, and helped found Providence Medical Group.

Dr. Kevin Olson began his medical career decades ago as a transportation orderly at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. "At the time, the only people besides patients allowed on the oncology units were clinicians, family members and transportation orderlies," said Dr. Olson. "That is where I lost my fear of being around people with cancer." Dr. Olson received his undergraduate degree from University of Notre Dame, and his medical degree from Oregon Health & Science University. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis, and completed fellowships in hematology and medical oncology and bone marrow transplantation at OHSU.

He was in private practice with Compass Oncology from 1996 until joining Providence. While with Compass Oncology Dr. Olson served as chief medical officer and also served as the group's president for 10 years. In addition, he was an active leader in US Oncology, a national cancer practice-management company, where he served on its National Policy Board and co-chaired its Practice Quality and Efficiency Committee.

As executive medical director, Dr. Olson's responsibilities include replacing Calvin Harrison as administrative leader of Providence Cancer Center. Harrison now leads the cancer program for Providence Health & Services across five states, and will work closely with Dr. Olson.

Dr. Olson will partner with Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., director, Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence Cancer Center, in moving the Providence program to the next level of service for patients.

The research component of Providence Cancer Center is dedicated to immunotherapy, which takes advantage of a patient's own immune system, activating it in a special way that allows it to target and eradicate cancer cells while minimizing damage to normal tissue.

Providence also has a special focus on bench to bedside research – bringing the latest in cancer research to the patient as quickly as possible.