Meet Dr. Alan Yahanda, the new president of the Parkview Packnett Family Cancer Institute

This article was created in partnership with Parkview Health.
Dr. Alan M. Yahanda was recently named president of the Parkview Packnett Family Cancer Institute (PFCI). He’s spent his career focused on surgical oncology and now he’s bringing his skills and leadership to Parkview Health.

Yahanda had planned on becoming a doctor for nearly as long as he can remember.

“It was always something I wanted to do, even back in first grade,” he says. “I knew I wanted to be a surgeon. I was always good with my hands. I liked taking things apart and putting them back together. From then on all my schooling and training took me further in that direction– it felt natural to me.”

His mother was an internal medicine physician. Yahanda says she was the primary inspiration for him to become a doctor. He admired how she had such job satisfaction helping patients, and was stimulated by the scientific aspect of medicine and his mother’s pursuit of lifelong education.  

His father was a highly decorated Air Force fighter pilot, which inspired Yahanda to commit to serving others.

“I was inspired by his service to others,” he says. “How much more selfless can one be than putting your life at risk in service of your country and fellow countrymen? That same sort of daring and courage necessary to fly a fighter jet is somewhat comparable to performing surgery.  The operating surgeon needs to possess courage, daring and calculated risk-taking in order to help the patient.”

That commitment and inspiration brought Yahanda to Johns Hopkins University, where he completed medical school and general surgical training. It was there he discovered his passion for oncology. He says it’s the unique dedication of the patients that helps keep him in the specialty. 

“Cancer patients are some of the most devoted and engaged patients I’ve found… The patient and their caregivers are so engaged and devoted to their care and their physicians,” he says. “They are such a special group to get to work with and get to know.”

From there he continued on to complete a fellowship at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. 

Courtesy, Parkview HealthDr. Alan Yahanda, president of the Parkview Packnett Family Cancer InstituteYahanda says he was driven to cancer surgery, in part, because he’s often able to intervene at a time “when there is a good possibility for a cure” and to help give patients a chance.  He was also attracted to the technical complexity of many cancer surgeries, as well as the academic and intellectual stimulation of cancer biology and genetics.

“Unfortunately, not all patients can be cured despite our best efforts in surgery,” he says.   “This is, perhaps, the most emotionally draining aspect of the job.  But on the other hand, it’s really uplifting when you get those success stories. Every year I get thank you cards from patients I operated on fifteen or more years ago.” 

Yahanda keeps these cards and looks at them frequently to remind him why he went into surgical oncology.

With his new position as president of the Parkview Packnett Family Cancer Institute, Yahanda will still spend time in the operating room and with patients but a larger part of his day will be spent on more administrative aspects, something he’s looking forward to doing.

“The administrative part has been fascinating,” he says. “It’s really exercising a different part of my brain and allows me to learn new things. I’m a lifelong learner. This whole world opened up to me in learning about executive leadership. I am very excited to continue growing and to move the cancer program forward.”

Outside the hospital walls, Yahanda places significant emphasis on family connections. In addition to his parents, he says his wife, who is also a doctor, is a major source of inspiration, saying she “always keeps [him] in check and on an even keel.” The two met when they were residents at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Working full-time as physicians while raising three kids, Yahanda says it wasn’t always easy to find time together as a family, but they found ways to make it work.

“We were always committed to making sure we were there for our children whenever possible,” he says. “We tried to always have dinner together every night, even though that might be at nine o’clock. The biggest challenge was just balancing work and home and I think we did a really good job of that.”

Even now, with all of their three children fully grown, the Yahandas continue to value family time. Many of Yahanda’s favorite pastimes involve his family, like paddle boarding, water skiing and biking at the Michigan lake house that’s become the family’s center.

“The biggest touch point for us is our lake place,” he explains. “I think that the kids, with all our moves, still view that as a home base. We can always count on them coming up at some point during the summers and we often spend our Christmases there.”

Moving has been a significant part of the doctor’s career, taking him and his family across the country from the East Coast to the Midwest and the South, but they’ve learned to take these moves in stride. 

“Both my wife and I  viewed everything as a growth and learning opportunity so we didn’t feel that moving was a burden,” he says. “We really enjoyed every location; we got to learn a lot of new things, not only from a career standpoint but from a cultural standpoint, as well.”

Throughout their moves, the two places he’s spent the most time have been Ann Arbor, where he worked as an assistant professor for the University of Michigan, and Fort Wayne.

Yahanda’s career took him to Fort Wayne in 2000, caring for Parkview patients and teaching at Purdue Fort Wayne, at the time IPFW. He eventually became the surgical section head for the medical school before moving on in 2013 to pursue the position of Chief of Staff for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Atlanta. He says Fort Wayne has been one of his favorite places to call home. His children spent most of their childhoods here and the family built connections and a community that he’s looking forward to becoming reacquainted with.

“It’s been really, really comforting and exciting,” he says. “It’s great to be among old friends and colleagues and familiar surroundings.”

Courtesy, Parkview HealthParkview Packnett Family Cancer InstituteIn his new position, Yahanda is looking forward to continuing and expanding Parkview’s legacy of providing “outstanding, cutting edge cancer care” and maintaining its relationship with the people of northeast Indiana.

The PFCI is described as a “one-stop shop for everything outpatient” when it comes to cancer care, offering everything from diagnostics to chemotherapy and even a wig boutique. They offer specialized care and are dedicated to the comfort and health of the patients, offering the only gynecological and palliative oncologists in the area along with eight other tumor site-specific care teams to assure that patients get the most expert and advanced cancer care. 

The Institute is well known for its outpatient infusion clinic, which provides chemotherapy and hydration infusions as well as blood transfusions with comfort and privacy for patients and their families. 

“I’m excited to pursue new innovations in technology and treatment, and expand the availability of clinical trials for our patients,” he says. “I also want the PFCI to continue to be a valued partner in the Fort Wayne community, not just in taking care of cancer patients, but also ensuring the health of the community as a whole through prevention and education.”

This article was created in partnership with Parkview Health.
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