Interview with Samantha (Lohse) Thresher, Corporate Angel Network Executive Director
Samantha is the Interim Executive Director at Corporate Angel Network (CAN), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help cancer patients access the best treatment centers in the United States by arranging free travel on corporate aircraft. She was kind enough to answer some questions for us about the recent cooperation between Corporate Angel Network and Drivania.
What motivated Corporate Angel Network to partner with Drivania for this initiative? How did this collaboration come about?
The Drivania team reached out to me after learning about CAN’s mission through Universal Weather & Aviation, a Drivania partner and long-time supporter of CAN. Having this mutual partner in common made it easy to develop a partnership —not to mention the incredible enthusiasm from Drivania’s team on being able to make an impact with their assets.
Additionally, Drivania’s team was immediately enthusiastic about ways to support cancer patients.
How does ground transportation complement the air travel aspect, and why is it essential for the overall patient experience?
Ground transportation is an essential piece in CAN’s mission and often the deciding factor in a cancer patient’s trip being possible. While we try to provide the most direct, easy trip possible for the patient, we don’t always have the exact city pairing a patient is requesting, so ground transportation allows us to close the gap. If a patient is traveling to New York City, but we only have a flight to Philadelphia, we’ll provide ground transportation to complete the trip. Without this option, we would have to say “no” to the patient.
How has dependable ground transport influenced patients’ willingness to seek specialized treatment when local options are limited, based on your experience?
Travel is a large barrier —both financially and physically— for cancer patients seeking care. I have personally been on the phone with a patient who affirmed that if CAN could provide ground transportation to the airport (over one hour away), they would be able to accept the flight. Otherwise, they would have to cancel their appointment. By being able to handle all aspects of travel logistics, patients don’t have to second guess accessing the treatment that is best for their diagnosis. Being the deciding factor in patients traveling for care is not a responsibility we take lightly, and we will exhaust all resources before turning a patient away.
Patient safety during travel is crucial. Can you explain the safety protocols in use?
All cancer patients and caregivers must follow any protocol the flight department has in place. Additionally, we ensure all patients are medically stable —they are ambulatory and don’t require medical assistance on board. We work directly with the patient’s medical team to confirm their status and if we are uncertain, we will not place a patient on board the aircraft. Our number one priority is ensuring the safety of all passengers.
Could you share some inspiring stories or experiences you have witnessed during your time at CAN?
All our cancer patients inspire us and it’s what makes the CAN team so passionate to come to work every day. We recently flew a patient home after a 6-week treatment. Being able to provide an easy, comfortable trip after a taxing experience is extremely rewarding.
We receive countless letters from families addressed to our volunteers, staff, and corporate partners, thanking us for their flight. While they are all heartwarming, we love receiving patient updates —holiday cards, graduation announcements, etc.— that show our patients growing and thriving.
I’m also inspired by our corporate partners. I’ve been to flight departments where schedulers have photos of CAN patients on their desk and almost everyone has a story to share about a patient flight. I’ve even had FBO employees tell me CAN flights are their favorite part of their job. It’s incredible to see the reach our flights and patients have on all aspects of the business aviation industry.