Ground broken for Shands Cancer Hospital
Published: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 10:25 p.m.
A dozen dignitaries grabbed shovels and donned hard hats to break ground for the new Shands Cancer Hospital at the University of Florida Thursday.
The hospital will be located across Archer Road from Shands at UF and the Health Science Center, on a site formerly occupied by the University Centre Hotel.
The project is expected to cost $388 million and will create at least 1,000 new jobs. Construction is expected to be finished in 2009.
The hospital will house 192 private inpatient beds for a variety of patients, including those receiving diagnostic and therapeutic oncology services. It also will include a Critical Care Center for emergency and trauma-related services.
Shands HealthCare officials say the hospital is being built to meet the ever-increasing demand for cancer services in the state. According to figures from the American Cancer Society, Florida had more than 99,000 new cases of cancer in 2006. Only California had a higher number.
In North Central Florida, at least 4,500 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year. One out of every seven adults hospitalized at Shands at UF is treated for cancer or a cancer-related ailment.
Shands CEO Timothy Goldfarb described the planned hospital as a significant milestone for UF on the road to becoming No. 1 in cancer care, just as it is in football and basketball.
"When we get things right and work together, we are not just a place of science, but of healing and hope," Goldfarb said.
UF President Bernie Machen said the highlight of the week, for him, was not Monday night's Gator victory in the BCS title game, but the gathering marking the start of construction on the cancer hospital.
"It's right now, in terms of what we are going to do for the people of this state and region," Machen said.
Machen said UF drew $31.4 million in funding for cancer research last year, and participated in some 150 clinical trials.
Dr. Stratford May is one of the UF faculty members who turned over the first shovelfuls of dirt for the new hospital. May heads the UF Shands Cancer Center and said Thursday that the new hospital will help to put UF and Shands on the map for outstanding cancer research and care.
"What it will mean to patients in this area is hard to put into words," May said. "We have a clinical trials center here, but the number of trials that we can participate in will be greatly expanded. It increases our capacity to do research, and when you do enough of it with the right people, you will make progress."
May sees UF's reputation as a cancer center growing year by year.
"Back in 1999, people here couldn't spell the word cancer," he said. "Now we have the institutional commitment and the will of the investigators to make things happen."
Each year, U.S. News & World Report publishes its guide to "America's Best Hospitals," ranking facilities based on their reputation among specialists and various medical data. Of 6,007 hospitals nationwide, only 176 found themselves ranked in at least one of 17 specialty areas in the 2006 edition.
Shands at UF was recognized in nine clinical specialities. Cancer care was not one of them. In Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute at the University of South Florida in Tampa ranked 11th and Sarasota Memorial Hospital came in at No. 50.
Jack Pledger, deputy director of the Moffitt Cancer Center, says it is difficult to compare Moffitt and Shands.
"At Moffitt, cancer is all we do," he said. "Shands at UF is a fantastic place, but they are dedicated to a wide variety of diseases and research areas. They are outstanding in many areas, but sometimes it is easier if you can only concentrate on a single mission."
In Pledger's view, UF is still behind Moffitt in terms of cancer care.
"But after all, we have all our eggs in one basket," he added.
But the more UF focuses on cancer, he said, the more level the playing field will become.
With the new hospital, and the Cancer and Genetics Research Complex that opened in November, UF is obviously putting cancer on the front burner, Pledger said, "and we need all the resources we can get to fight this disease."
Dr. Edward Copeland was recruited by UF in 1982 from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. The professor of surgery was the first director of the UF Shands Cancer Center. Copeland, who has served as president of the American College of Surgeons, offered his view of where Shands and the UF College of Medicine stand today in the successful treatment of cancer.
"This facility will stand on the shoulders of giants," Copeland said.
Sometimes, in his view, "we don't seem to know how good the people we have here are."
Nationally, UF has an outstanding reputation for cancer studies, he said, but he's not sure that reputation is recognized locally.
"When you pass the UF Cancer and Genetics Research Complex, be sure to tip your hat because that is where cancer will be cured in this generation," Copeland said.
Work on the new hospital to complement the research facility will begin immediately.
Skanska USA Building Inc. has been named as construction manager for the 500,000-square-foot facility. Flad and Associates is the architect.
Skanska and Shands are pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for the cancer hospital by using ecosensitive construction techniques that emphasize sustainability. Currently only three hospitals in the United States have Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council; none are in Florida.
Jerry Davis of Jacksonville is a member of the Shands HealthCare board of directors. With his wife Judy, he co-chairs the capital campaign to fund the new cancer hospital.
He also knows cancer on a personal basis, having spent most of the summer in Shands dealing with a third bout of lymphoma.
He began to speak to the audience of some 200 who'd gathered for the groundbreaking Thursday afternoon, but broke down in tears.
Judy Davis stepped to the microphone to warn listeners that cancer would eventually touch someone each of them knows. She is a breast cancer survivor, and together the couple has donated $5 million to endow the UF Shands Cancer Center.
Like the Gator basketball and football teams, Judy Davis said, "We must first overcome if we are to win in the battle against a deadly disease.
"This is our time and our moment to do something that will help others," she said.
Diane Chun can be reached at 374-5041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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