At the close of 2017, Carol Milgard Breast Center (CMBC) bids a fond farewell to Dr. Khai Tran. The facility is named for 30-year cancer survivor, philanthropist and long-time Tacoma resident Carol Milgard, but Dr. Tran is its founding Medical Director and the visionary behind the organization. He recognized the need for improved and accelerated services for breast patients early on in his career. Without him, the breast center would likely never have opened.
Owned by CHI Franciscan Health and MultiCare Health System and managed by TRA-MINW, the breast center received a founding gift from the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation. Today, the breast center offers patient-focused care with a full suite of screening and diagnostic services.
Before the breast center opened, Dr. Tran envisioned a new approach to breast care and cancer diagnosis. “I wanted to provide the highest level of breast care across the region, to increase access to screening, to create a strong outreach program, to significantly decrease the time to diagnosis, to strengthen the alliances between radiologists, surgeons, oncologists, and many others who participate in the care of our breast cancer patients, underscoring the importance of a multidisciplinary approach.”
As this pillar of the Carol Milgard Breast Center prepares for the next chapter of his life, friends, colleagues and the patients whose lives he has touched reminisce on the journey that led him to serve so many South Sound women and men.
Dr. Tran was born in Vietnam in October 1966. He was nine years old when his parents and younger brother became refugees of the Vietnam War. They escaped at the final moments of the conflict in April 1975, rescued by American military personnel. After relocating several times, a Lutheran church community sponsored his family into civilian life. “It was their incredible generosity and love that allowed us to begin our new lives in the United States,” Dr. Tran remembers.
Dr. Tran was a serious student who loved to solve problems that involved critical thinking and challenging perspectives. He also had a strong interest in the arts, humanities and music. He was able to nurture his interests at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Though he had a passion for creativity and expression, Dr. Tran gravitated toward a career in medicine. He attributes his early experiences as a child in Vietnam for his interest in helping others. “Growing up in a country ravaged by war, I became acutely aware of the human condition and the suffering of the people,” he says. “I knew I wanted to help those in need and improve my community in any way that I can.”
Dr. Tran met his wife Jackie at Dartmouth Medical School in 1989. They wed in 1992, and celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2017. The couple’s residency training brought them to Seattle, and together they raised two daughters, both of whom are now in college.
Dr. Tran wanted a career that would find him directly involved in the care of patients while working closely with a team of surgeons, oncologists, navigators and staff who were dedicated to breast care and cancer treatment. He was working at another TRA location, when he began to conceive ways to combat the high incidence of breast cancer in this region. This aspiration would later become the Carol Milgard Breast Center.
While Dr. Tran will no longer be a part of its day-to-day operations, he is confident that the breast center will continue to see growth and better more lives in the coming decade. “All of the right ingredients are in place. CMBC will always be a technology leader, which will set the standard not only regionally, but perhaps nationally one day. CMBC will continue its important outreach work, breaking down cultural and socioeconomic barriers to increase access to screening. CMBC will continue to support education and bring awareness to breast health and screening. CMBC is a strong brand, because it is a great model of collaboration, and because it represents great patient care. I would hope to see the CMBC brand extends its reach into yet-to-be-defined areas where it can positively impact people’s lives.”
In his final days at the breast center, Dr. Tran could think of only one word to express his feelings about the time he’s spent there: gratitude.
Dr. Tran will be the first to say that his hard work is merely a beautiful part of a much larger whole. “This vision is a reality because it took the strength, conviction and trust of so many people, all of whom deserve recognition. Needless to say, I am only one side of the coin, and in recognizing the other half that makes me whole, I am indebted to my loving wife Jackie, who single-handedly practiced medicine full-time and raised two beautiful children in my absence during those early formative years of CMBC. I could not have done it without her support, and she, too, reminded me from time to time that nothing good comes easy, and nothing truly great happens by accident.”
“Of course, I am profoundly grateful to have the support and confidence of the Milgard Family and Foundation, because they saw the vision with absolute clarity and conviction. And where would we be without our hospital partners? CHI Franciscan Health System and MultiCare Health System were there every step of the way, because everyone wins when patients are well cared for. Their collaboration with TRA can only be seen as unique and visionary in the complex and competitive healthcare environment. I also want to call out special thanks to Dr. John Peixotto, a dear friend and colleague who worked tirelessly with me to bring CMBC to life.”
“My last thoughts will always go to the wonderful CMBC staff and colleagues. They have helped shape the culture at CMBC, and they will always be part of the ongoing narrative that speaks to the success of CMBC. Thank you for your dedication, your laughter, your tears, your passion, your strength, your kindness and your friendship. You are the best today, and you will be even better tomorrow.”