Distinguished Oncologist Retires, Continues Vision for Local Treatment

By Millie Drum and Hayley Mattson

In August, after 28 years as a primary radiation oncologist in Templeton, Dr. James Longo started saying his goodbyes to his patients and his team as he prepared for his approaching retirement. 37 years ago, Dr. Longo graduated from medical school and after 5 additional years of specialty training and board certification, he was able to start practicing as a Radiation Oncologist. He received the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society Award in 1980 and was the chief resident in Radiation Oncology at UCLA, and in 1986 he received the American Cancer Society Clinical Fellowship Award in Oncology at UCLA and became Board-certified.

“As a student, I was overwhelmed with compassion for cancer patients; convincing me to specialize in Oncology. For the last 28 years, I served as Director of the Templeton Radiation Oncology Medical Center. I’m honored and privileged to have served the North San Luis Obispo County; witnessing the progress in both the level and quality of care. I am proud of the medical teams assembled here.” As he should be, Dr. Jim Longo, as most know him, was at the forefront of setting the tone of providing the upmost quality of care to all cancer patients. He served as the Chief of Staff Physicians, Vice President of the Governing Board, Chair of Physicians Leadership Council, and Chair of the Medical Staff at Twin Cities Community Hospital where he also served as the moderator of their monthly Oncology Conferences for the Medical Staff. Dr. Longo believed in the team approach when working with his patients, sometimes he was the quarterback and other times the referring physician or medical oncologist, staying plugged and involved within the local medical community.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is one of the most difficult, Dr. Longo took great pride in knowing each patients entire history and researching what the absolute best treatment would be. In addition he understood that a cancer diagnosis affects the entire family or care unit around the patient, which is why over the years he has stayed deeply involved and supported the Cancer Support Community, which his wife Deborah Longo was one of the founding partners, Shannon D’Acquisto, Executive Director of the Cancer Support Community, regards Dr. Jim Longo as a “longstanding staple in local cancer care and a current Board Member.” Shannon shared with us, “His retirement is bittersweet for the Cancer Support Community. He is passionate about the lives he’s touched and knows that the social and emotional impact of cancer is hard to support in the medical visit. This organization was formed to support the whole patient and family. We are proud of his work and look forward to seeing his passion for the patients and philanthropy as it follows him into retirement.”

This sentiment of Dr. Longo was shared by family, friends and colleagues as they gathered at the Paso Robles Golf Club on September 8th to honor and congratulate Dr. James Longo on his retirement. “It was just great, we had a blast. It was so nice to hear the warm wishes from so many people.” Dr. Longo shared, and they did from his close friend Dr. David Bolivar to another friend and colleague Mark Lisa, CEO of TCCH, as well as Founding Board Member of the Cancer Support Community, Thom Schulz and so many others. It really was a special night honoring a true hero in his own right, for all the years he dedicated countless hours, sleepless nights, on call
every weekend, endless research, all while he experienced the loss of patients, friends and colleagues and still always remained equally passionate about the strides in care that cancer patients were able to receive locally. He treated every patient as if they were family.

So what is next for Dr. Jim Longo retired Radiation Oncologist … “My next big goal is to recruit medical oncologists and establish a North County chemotherapy program. Currently, patients must travel to San Luis Obispo for treatment. There are huge strides and changes in immunotherapy that targets the disease more effectively. More efficient imaging equipment has led to better localization and targeting. Better treatment equipment has led to higher accuracy with less toxicity we are on the verge of great benefits for cancer patients.” Knowing Dr. Longo we would not expect anything different.

Thank you, Dr. Longo. Upon your retirement, your talents, skills and interests will be a great asset through your vision and a new phase for cancer care in our community.