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Editorial: Roswell Park rightly regains its place on U.S. News list

It’s not something that should produce too much excitement – it’s a magazine rating, after all – but news that Roswell Park Cancer Institute has climbed its way back into U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the nation’s top 50 hospitals for cancer care is nevertheless reassuring. It suggests that the Buffalo institution is on the right track.

That’s good news for anyone who lives in Western New York and especially good news for those who need the hospital’s life-saving services. Buffalo needs Roswell Park to function at its peak.

It’s been an up-and-down record for the hospital in recent years, according to the news magazine. Roswell Park wasn’t doing as well a year ago, at least in comparison with other cancer hospitals: It fell out of the magazine’s top 50. The year before that, though, it ranked 43rd and this year improved to the 33rd spot. U.S. News appears to take care in assembling data for its rankings. It’s safe, then, to conclude that this new report does, in fact, represent some kind of improvement, and a significant one, at that.

Some of the change may trace to a change in how the magazine runs its calculations, this year altering data and statistical adjustments for certain Medicare patients. Nevertheless, Roswell Park received “high-performing” listings for urology and lung cancer surgery.

The magazine’s rankings are based on comparisons of more than 4,500 medical centers in 25 specialties, procedures and conditions. The top-ranked cancer hospital was the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, while the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., topped the listing of 20 overall best hospitals.

There was other good news for Buffalo, too: Of New York hospitals ranked in the report, Buffalo General rated 11th. With that the magazine gave notice to two high-profile occupants of the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, whose development augurs only more improvement in the years to come.

That’s significant. The Medical Campus is one of the big drivers of Buffalo’s economic resurgence. While proof of the area’s comeback is often seen via the RiverBend project or the 43North business competition, high-tech health care is a critical part of the package. The report in U.S. News offers evidence that that’s no mistake.

There can be little doubt that a share of the credit for Roswell Park’s high score belongs to Candace Johnson, the hospital’s creative and passionate president and chief executive officer. She was among the forces behind the hospital’s alliance with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology, which produced a lung cancer vaccine. Clinical trials here could open the door to U.S. approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration.

That’s evidence of leadership that translates into improved care and higher rankings.

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