Chancellor needs surgery to remove treatable cancer

By Luke Nozicka

Interim Chancellor Paul Sarvela will need surgery to remove his rare but treatable tumor, according to an email on Wednesday by his oncologist, Dr. Brian Van Tine.

Van Tine, an assistant professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said there are only a handful of cases every year in the U.S. involving this type of cancer.

“The tumor is rare enough that little is known about it in terms of causes and prevention,” according to Van Tine’s email.


“The good news is that I have been given an excellent prognosis for a positive outcome, and I will be able to maintain an active, if somewhat modified schedule in my role as interim chancellor of SIU Carbondale throughout treatment over the next few months,” Sarvela wrote in an email Tuesday to colleagues.

Sarvela, who was appointed acting chancellor by SIU system President Randy Dunn on July 8, said he is in the excellent hands of physicians and staff at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes- Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

“I am deeply grateful for the counsel and care I have received over the last few weeks from outstanding local doctors and staff, many of whom hold SIU degrees,” he wrote in his email Tuesday.

Sarvela’s prognosis is presently excellent, Van Tine wrote in his email.

“Sarvela is being treated with curative intent,” wrote Van Tine, who received his medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2005. “He should be able to tolerate what is being done to him, his love for SIU will him get through this and the support of the university will help him continue to live as normal a life as possible.”

University spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said Sarvela has been working a very full schedule while undergoing tests.

“His schedule may be off so there will be things he can’t make. … He needs to be open about his health because it is going to be pretty visible that he is undergoing treatment,” Goldsmith said in an interview Thursday.


“I would like to use this occasion to emphasize the importance of staying on top of routine annual physicals, as my tumor would not have been detected and treated if I had not visited our family physician,” wrote Sarvela, who comes from a health research background.

Goldsmith said Sarvela frequently exercises and can often be found at the Recreation Center before coming into work.

Sarvela has served as chairman of the Department of Health Care Professions and director of the Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development at the university, according to his online biography.

Sarvela is a tenured professor of health care management, professor of health education and clinical professor of family and community medicine,  and has served on three Centers for Disease Control expert panels related to HIV/AIDS and injury control issues, according to his SIU biography.

Luke Nozicka can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @lukenozicka.