When Jon M. Huntsman was diagnosed with cancer, he felt alone. “There was nowhere to turn for information,” says Mr. Huntsman. “I wanted to find out more about my disease, but didn’t know where to start.”

Mr. Huntsman knew a cancer library would be an important part of his vision for a cancer institute. “I wanted a place where people could find everything they needed to know about cancer in one spot.”

Meanwhile, Donna Branson was envisioning a better program to educate patients about cancer. Branson had been running a one-person cancer information service for the University of Utah Hospital part-time and knew that she was only reaching a small fraction of the people with cancer. “It broke my heart that patients and their families were not receiving the information they needed to reduce their fears about the disease and its treatment.”  


Carrie Arnold and Donna Branson


Now HCI’s Director of Patient and Public Education, Branson was recruited to establish HCI’s cancer information phone service and integrate it into a physical library to create the Cancer Learning Center (CLC). A vital part of HCI’s mission to provide information about cancer risk, prevention, and care, the CLC was established to provide the best cancer information to anyone who wanted it; to reduce patients’ fears about cancer and help them become informed decision makers; and to educate members of the public about how to reduce their risk of cancer (see the Education and Outreach stories).

Since sprouting from those early ideas and goals, the CLC has grown into an award-winning, model program for cancer education, with a reputation for outstanding service and excellence. The CLC provides a wealth of information free of charge to HCI patients and to the general public, both locally and nationally. People with questions about cancer can call, e-mail, or visit the CLC to receive individualized help. Trained health educators search through print and online materials, make phone calls, and talk with HCI doctors and nurses to find the answers each person needs. As Branson initially envisioned, the CLC is helping many more patients understand their cancer. “I am so grateful to the Huntsman family and other donors for providing the resources we need to help more patients,” she says.

Carrie Arnold, CLC program manager, says individualized attention is a key element. “When patients are going through the process of treatment, it can be overwhelming, and sometimes they feel like they’re not being heard. One of our biggest goals is to show people they are being listened to and helped as individuals.”

The response from callers and visitors encourages CLC staff to continue their efforts. “When people call,” says Arnold, “some are crying and they sound devastated. When we’re done talking with them, they sound hopeful. It makes us feel like we’re accomplishing what we’ve set out to do.”

Over the past 10 years, the CLC has grown tremendously, expanding its reach beyond Utah to the rest of the country. In 2000, 90% of calls received were from Utah and 10% from the rest of the country. In 2010, 66% of calls came from Utah while 34% came from the rest of the United States. In fact, in 2010, the CLC received calls from every state except one.

To be more accessible to patients, the CLC will move to the sixth floor of HCI’s new hospital wing, next to The Point Bistro. The new wing is set to open in late 2011.