Part 1: Proton Therapy for Cancer Treatment

Engage Estero was delighted to bring you an important program for the May 23rd Community and Member Monthly meeting. Lee Health has partnered with Advocate Radiation Oncology to provide Proton therapy, an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses protons rather than traditional X-rays. It targets tumors and cancer cells more precisely. This means less damage to surrounding tissue, resulting in a lower risk of side effects and a better quality of life during and after cancer treatment. It is a highly effective cancer treatment option for patients diagnosed with:

  • Breast cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pediatric cancer
  • Soft tissue cancer

Our Speakers


Todd Pezzi, M.D., M.B.A., a board-certified Radiation Oncologist from Advocate Radiation Oncology, who brought his extensive experience and expertise to our discussion as a key consultant for the new treatment center project.


Arie Dosoretz, M.D., MBA., a widely published researcher in nationally recognized peer-reviewed journals and a member of the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the American Society for Clinical Oncology.


Ben Spence is the chief financial officer of Lee Health and a senior executive team member.


Dr. Mark Roh serves as Lee Health’s chief physician executive of oncology services.

Summary of the Presentation

Over 50 residents attended the meeting, eager to learn how this treatment approach will benefit cancer patients. Many who could not participate will benefit from accessing the information provided.

Todd Pezzi explained that a new treatment center will be built in Estero for various reasons. This center will benefit people in Southwest Florida from the treatment provided. Additionally, its proximity to RSW will allow a more comprehensive range of patients to seek treatment. The proton equipment, which will cost over $26 million, is expected to be the most up-to-date and state-of-the-art equipment available in the U.S. This advanced technology will significantly improve the precision and effectiveness of cancer treatments. It is from Belgium, and the Therapy Center is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. However, due to the need for extensive equipment calibration and testing, treatment will likely commence in mid-2025. Dr. Pezzi emphasized that the equipment is very complicated and will require a sophisticated group of people to prepare it.

  • It provides an important alternative treatment option for patients and attracts oncologists to the area because of the latest state-of-the-art facilities
  • It will offer new employment opportunities for support staff, nurses, radiologists, technologists, and physicians. This is especially important given the likely shortage of physicians and nurses in the U.S.A.
  • Because treatment will take several weeks, patients and their families who seek treatment from a more comprehensive geographic location will require local accommodation and support.
  • It will enhance Estero’s reputation as a leading area for healthcare.
  • It will encourage broader interest in businesses wishing to capitalize on all the above issues.
  • These aspects will increase the revenue for the Village of Estero.

Proton Therapy Vs RadiationDr Pezzi made the comment, “as a doctor I feel that it’s a calling. It’s a vocation to take care of patients’ right? And that’s kind of how this all started is, what are we missing in this community that is available in some other places? That would help us offer every tool to a patient who has a cancer to be treated in the best way possible by minimizing side effects, maximizing efficacy and improving people’s quality of life..”

Arie Dosoretz explained why proton therapy was an important alternative to traditional radiation treatment. While radiation treatment directed at cancer cells causes them to die, traditional radiation (see “A”) penetrates and exits the body while impacting other areas and organs besides those being targeted. Proton therapy (see “B”) does not exit the body and, because of a very targeted effect, does not impact the surrounding tissues. This significantly reduces the risk of side effects and damage to healthy tissues. Dr. Dosoretz said, “As the beam enters the body, it does not pass through you, so there is no exit dose. This means the treatment is more precise, leading to better outcomes and a higher quality of life for patients.”

The types of cancer where the treatment can be considered include but are not restricted to, pediatric cancers, C.N.S. and head and neck cancers, those that are recurrent, G.I., prostate, and left breast (near the heart) with more indications occurring regularly.

Dr. Mark Roh, Lee Health, explained why the development was so exciting and emphasized the critical partnership between Lee Health and the Proton Therapy Center. Mark said that Lee Health’s approach to cancer treatment is based on a “concierge cancer care” approach. Mark pointed out that:

  • Cancer care is stressful for the patient and family
  • Patients frequently complain of feeling alone
  • Patients suffer from anxiety and have limited options for management
  • Patients and caregivers are uncertain if the symptoms are expected or potentially serious
  • Symptoms of a severe side effect can go unnoticed

As a result, patients needed to receive care at one location, eliminating the need to travel. A nurse navigator was provided to guide the patient and family through the treatment selected. Same-day or next-day appointments were provided, reducing anxiety, starting treatments as soon as possible, and taking care of everyone’s needs during such a stressful time. In addition, the center offers a range of support services, including psychological counseling, nutritional advice, and support groups, to ensure that patients and their families feel supported and cared for throughout their treatment journey.

It was now possible to monitor patients in their homes to further reduce stress, to have access to the medical team 24/7, to provide rapid communication, regardless of the time of day, and even to administer chemotherapy in the home rather than the hospital if required.

Unsurprisingly, 84% of patients found the concierge approach helpful in their recovery. Not only does it foster a real-time connection between patients and the clinical care team and provide a sense of control and confidence in managing symptoms, but it also provides an additional contact of support for patients.

Lee Health’s Chief Financial Officer Ben Spence said, “We’re not going to talk about the R.O.I. (return on investment) and the financial forecast, although I love to do that.” He felt it was important that patients, especially children, could now be treated quickly with proton therapy without having to travel long distances to receive such treatment. He said, “This is an advanced treatment. You just heard how amazing it is in the technology and the advancement it provides, the superior outcomes it can produce, limiting exposure to radiation that is so important in treating children and adults.”

Questions at the May 2024 meetingIt was pointed out that Lee Health’s mission was to be a trusted partner, empowering healthier lives, and doing it with care and compassion. Ben stated, “we are partnering in the Proton Center with leading radiation oncologic physicians that have provided radiation treatment services to our community for over three generations.”

Some estimates suggest that less than 15% of patients nationwide who should be considered for proton therapy are receiving it, primarily due to limited access. This was an essential reason for Lee Health to support and partner with the Proton Therapy Center.

In answer to a question from Jim Boesch in the audience, the point was made that despite the high investment costs involved, proton therapy is an approved approach to treatment for those who are insured, so there would be no additional costs associated with the treatment in comparison to any other treatment protocols.

Part 2: Estero’s Sense of Place

Allan B

Estero’s “Sense of Place” and Future Priorities Suggested by Residents
See a Statement Describing Estero’s Sense of Place

Engage Estero is also pleased to bring you the results of the March 2024 survey. The study explored residents’ opinions about what Estero should convey to residents and visitors about its “Sense of Place.” Estero may not be well positioned in the minds of its citizens or visitors. It needs distinction! Estero’s “Sense of Place,” or brand, should convey a favorable character, culture, and attractive image to visitors and its citizens so said survey respondents.

The study also explored what priorities the Village should focus on. Details of the survey results and the winners of the Sense of Place competition will be announced, along with a statement describing Estero’s Sense of Place and other findings relating to the priorities residents would like to see addressed by the Village.

Speaker:  Allan Bowditch, Engage Estero’s Chief Communications Officer.

Summary of the Presentation

Allan Bowditch explained the importance of developing a clear and communicable “sense of place” to help build Estero’s brand. Even though many new developments will add a wider range of amenities for residents and visitors, it was considered essential to commence a campaign with an agreed-upon message sooner rather than later, as creating a lasting image takes time. Other municipalities have achieved notable success with such an approach, as illustrated by Sarasota. “Sarasota has a distinct vibe different from Florida’s relative coastal cities, with its vibrant arts scene, beachy atmosphere, and burgeoning food culture. People who choose Sarasota as their home are generally called by its unique charm.”

In a recent competition to explore what residents believe Estero’s “Sense of Place” should be, residents responded to Engage Estero’s request to share their opinions. More than 150 people responded, providing a cross-section of excellent suggestions. Some outstanding words and phrases submitted included: “A boutique town;” “Estero – the Hidden Gem!” “A piece of paradise;” “Paradise doesn’t get any better than Estero;” “Small village friendliness;” “Florida’s natural splendor meets timeless Gulf Coast charm;” “The heart of Southwest Florida;” “Estero checks all the boxes;” “Florida’s best kept secret.” And many more!

The winners were as follows:

  • 1st Place (Mean Score 6.0) Julie Yellig

Estero is an engaged community that supports an active lifestyle. It offers access to the Gulf Coast through the Estero River and its Bay, historical state parks and natural preserves, top-quality food, shopping, and cultural venues. The Village is near Florida Gulf Coast University and Hertz Arena, offering diverse exploration opportunities, discovery, and entertainment.

  • 2nd Place (Mean Score 5.3) Karen Katz

Upscale but not pretentious – casual convenience with everything you need close at hand. Arts, sports, education, retail, healthcare and more. All you want, all you need – in the middle of everything. Make your life easier in Estero

  • 3rd Place (Mean Score 4.22) Jacqueline Clifford

Florida’s best-kept secret – multigenerational healthy living at its very best, where everyone is valued!

The Engage Estero team needed to produce an even more emotional and compelling means of conveying Estero’s “Sense of Place.” Based on the range of expertise in Marketing, Advertising, and Publishing, the following was considered an appropriate way of creating a positive brand for Estero. This has been discussed with senior individuals in Estero’s Council and Management.

Estero: Southwest Florida’s Best Kept Secret!

Nestled alongside the beautiful Estero Bay is the Village of Estero—a vibrant, thriving, and growing community that welcomes residents and visitors of all ages. Estero is an environmentally and health-conscious location, and its unique blend of history, nature, and vibrant living offers much. It provides a safe, relaxing, friendly, and inviting setting with casual and upscale dining, diverse entertainment, and recreational activities. You are sure to have many enjoyable and unforgettable experiences. It’s the place you want to be!  

Estero checks all the boxes!

Allan summarized the survey results, which provided insight into residents’ priorities, concerns, and suggestions for Estero’s future.

A full report can be viewed by clicking on – Please refer to Part 2 in the report –

In brief, over two-thirds of the responding public identified four significant “Potential Initiatives” of the utmost importance (See Table 1). In addition, over 50% considered another four initiatives “highly important.”

Table 1


Potential Initiatives

Top scores
7+ Very Important
Mean based on ten max
Development of the 62 acres along the Estero River (Northeast US 41 and Corkscrew Road) with areas to walk and relax in the natural area south of the river and activities for children, plus coffee and restaurants on the north side of the river. 86% 8.6
Support BERT with initial funding and ongoing maintenance (e.g., increase the safe areas to walk, bike, and rollerblade). 76% 7.9
Support converting the Florida Power & Light (FP&L) right of way in West Estero as an area to walk, bike, and rollerblade. 71% 6.8
Provide local Estero access to the Larry Kiker Preserve.  (This preserve totals 428 acres and consists of several natural plant communities, including wet flatwoods, live oak hammocks, freshwater marshes, and cypress. This diversity of plant communities makes it very beneficial to wildlife. Currently, access is in Bonita Springs). 68% 7.6
Performing Arts Hall is a multi-use performance space that is intended for use by various types of performing arts, including dance, music, and theatre. 65% 7.1
Provide local subsidized housing for teachers, health workers, police, and firefighters to reduce resignations and traffic density. 60% 6.7
A theater complex and community center with restaurants. 58% 6.6
Expand the number of Estero’s sports fields available to enable soccer, lacrosse, football, baseball, softball, and other sports to be played across various age groups. 50% 6.2
Veterans Recognition area/park 48% 6.1
Provide Olympic sized 50 meter and 25meter pools with slides 36% 5.1
Provide spa facilities, including mineral pools and plunge pools for rehab. purposes, as well as relaxation lounges, steam rooms, and saunas. 36% 4.7

Overall, the public seems satisfied with the various projects itemized in the survey for which the Village is responsible. However, concern was expressed about “the speed of implementing the Utilities Expansion Program (septic to sewer).” This issue is also a considerable concern among those involved with water quality.

When asked, “What other amenities or ideas should the Village Management consider to enhance what Estero offers residents and visitors?” the comments centered on:

  • Traffic congestion and safety concerns.
  • Estero needs a focal point/ centralized downtown area similar to 5th Avenue in Naples.
  • To be environmentally conscious, especially with the level of future development
  • An emphasis on “green space”
  • Estero needs more businesses: “Why not recruit other corporate headquarters? That brings young families and high-paying jobs.

In closing the meeting, Allan mentioned the 2023 Annual Report that summarized the achievements of the Engage Estero organization and cited many new accomplishments already achieved in 2024. Such as

  • The Public Forum was held on Traffic Density in our area.
  • The review of developments taking place in greater Estero (posted on
  • Updates on the construction taking place on East Corkscrew Road
  • The monitoring of the Septic to Sewer Program
  • Health-related articles on
    • Dementia
    • Loneliness
    • Longevity – Blue Zones
  • Emphasis on the music and the arts available locally from Gulfcoast Opera and FGCU’s Bower School of Music and the Arts.
  • Working with The Calusa Waterkeeper, FGCU’s Water School, Sanibel and Captiva Conservancy, and Lee Climate Reality to address environmental and water quality issues.
  • Developing a strategic plan to enhance the financial support for the organization that will expand and enhance our work to help residents and enable them to become more informed on the various issues that can impact their lives in greater Estero.