Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 22  |  Friday, December 17, 1999  |  Number 24
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

Lennox recognized for NTF contributions

by Mike Perricone

In the Neutron Therapy Facility, not all the therapy comes from neutrons.

Arlene Lennox remembers a little Hispanic boy reading a book about dinosaurs he had found in the waiting room, and asking his mother what a "foot" meant. His mother, who spoke little English, couldn't answer. Lennox responded by explaining the unit of measure, pointing out floor tiles that were a foot square, helping the boy count off the length of dinosaurs in floor tiles, and giving him a 12-inch plastic Fermilab ruler.

"The rest of the time he was waiting, he was enthusiastically measuring everything in sight," she recalled. "I feel as if we changed his life that day, as if we opened a door for him."

In her previous life as a physicist, Lennox worked on Fermilab's nascent CDF project, and participated in the first approved collider experiment (Total Cross Section) at the Tevatron. She was asked to manage NTF in 1985, by then Assistant Director Rich Orr.

Since then, she has become what she calls a self-educated medical administrator. The NTF uses a beam of high-energy neutrons to treat malignant tumors. It occupies space at Fermilab, and uses protons from the Linear Accelerator to produce its neutron beam, but the facility is run independently. It rents space, buys beam and pays for staffing.

With Lennox at the helm, NTF has survived the withdrawal of funding from the National Cancer Institute, and even a shutdown in 1995 when Rush Health Services ended its affiliation. Lennox was able to establish a new sponsorship by Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin, for what is now called the Midwest Institute for Neutron Therapy.

Lennox's efforts led to a LUCI (Leading Us in Commerce Industry) Award from the Fox Valley Business Journal. Fermilab Director Michael Witherell underscored his support with an Employee Recognition Award.

"Very few parts of this Laboratory have benefited from a single driving commitment as much as NTF has from Arlene Lennox," said Witherell. "This is a good area for us to be working in. Through all the complications over the years, Arlene has kept the facility alive."

"This ceremony honors every person who has had anything to do with the facility over the years, and it's a good message," Lennox replied.

U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who represents Fermilab's district, has offered $2 million in funding to help create a stand-alone facility. Lennox also hopes to expand NTF's research capabilities. And she points out that some 30 percent of referrals to NTF are indigent, with no medical insurance. Some important expenses are covered by a fund drawn from contributions and administered by the Lab's Business Services Section.

"Some of our patients can't pay for the train fare from Chicago," Lennox said. "It costs nine dollars. That's one way we use the fund."

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