Clayton Dunklin Pruett, Business Professional, ASCO Member, Dies at Age 86

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The delivery of high-quality cancer care relies on a vast network of dedicated experts, some of whom work assiduously behind the scenes, building and modernizing the very architecture on which the cancer community operates. One such person was Clayton Dunklin Pruett, an engineer by training, who followed his passion into the challenging world of oncology, where, among other things, he helped create ASCO’s successful business model, becoming one of the Society’s first nonphysician members. Mr. Pruitt died at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, on July 24, 2021. He was 86.

From the Air Force to Oncology

Mr. Pruett was born on June 16, 1935, in Montgomery, Alabama. During high school, where he excelled in math and science, Mr. Pruett decided to become an engineer; following graduation, he pursued a Bachelor of Science degree at Auburn University.

After attaining his degree in 1956, Mr. Pruett served as a Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, where he worked on top secret projects involving human sensitivity to radiation. After leaving the Air Force, he took a position as staff Associate General, Atomic Division, General Dynamics, La Jolla, California, which initiated his lifelong interest in the world of cancer care.

Leaving His Mark

In 1973, Mr. Pruett started CDP Services, which began working with the National Institutes of Health in program development to assist patients with cancer and their caregivers. He established programs with academic medical centers around the country, adding cancer-focused programs and services. These services evolved into the National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center programs. Mr. Pruett spent the next 40-plus years developing a series of companies focused on improving the care and outcomes for patients with cancer and their providers.

His innovative companies established the first evidence-based cancer clinical care guidelines and the first private cancer clinical trials network. This network brought the latest investigational treatments to eligible patients in communities across the United States.

In addition, Mr. Pruett helped to establish the Association of Community Cancer Centers, which has grown into a national association with more than 28,000 active members. He also was a key advisor in pediatric oncology in the formation of the National Cancer Institute’s Children’s Oncology Group.

Always Up for a Challenge

In 2011, Mr. Pruett took a lead position in the nationally recognized Oncology Management Consulting (OMC) Group. Teri U. Guidi, President and Chief Executive Officer of OMC Group commented: “There are very few giants in our industry and Dunk Pruett certainly leads that group. As a former principal and co-owner of Oncology Solutions in Georgia, former Chief Executive Officer of CDP Services, and founder of many other highly successful cancer-related companies, Dunk brought an unsurpassed level of oncology knowledge, 30 years of distinguished consulting and management expertise, and a vast network of cancer professionals and clients to the table!”

As word of Mr. Pruett’s death was made public, his vast array of friends and colleagues paid tribute. One long-time associate Russ Clark, Senior Vice President Business Development at Spesana, Inc, shared his thoughts on Mr. Pruett. “Dunk was never afraid to tackle the tough problems. He inspired those around him to dig deeper and not become overwhelmed by problems but rather to “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” As a result, his contributions in terms of innovation in the cancer world are continuing to help cancer patients and caregivers with better outcomes.”

Other Accomplishments

Throughout his long career in oncology, Mr. Pruett was known for his drive and determination, to help better the delivery of cancer care. He credited his early background in civil engineering as the structural underpinning that helped his career as a biotech company executive and “modernizer” in the oncology space. Most recently, he helped form and lead a global study sponsored by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer study on the impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer clinical trials. He was actively working on that study up until the time of his death.

Mr. Pruett is survived by his wife, Kim; sons, Blair and Tyler; and five grandchildren.