The new year of 2013 brought a new facility at the Hillman Cancer Center–and not just any facility! After many months of planning and construction, the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers opened on the fourth floor, topping off the occupancy of the Hillman Cancer Center that began in 2002. This 24,000-square-foot space is dedicated to the care of patients with hematological malignancies including leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It was made possible by a catalytic donation of $3 million from the Mario Lemieux Foundation and a $10 million investment from UPMC. It embodies the three pillars of our care at UPMC – good science, smart technology and patient-centered care – and reflects our belief that form and function are inextricably linked.
So what is different about the Lemieux Center? With the commitment of the Lemieux Foundation, our staff and our patients were allowed to dream. Together they envisioned and then designed a care model that puts the patient at the center and enables us to carry out all parts of our mission-patient care, research and education–seamlessly. In the traditional outpatient care model patients move from point to point to receive care. A patient receiving chemotherapy, for example, will go from check in to phlebotomy to vital signs to doctor's office to infusion suite to check out–a sometimes wearing and bewildering sequence of events involving many care team members. A key element of the Lemieux model is that, wherever possible, needed services come to the patient. On arrival patients are directed to a provider office or a spot in the infusion center where the care team brings needed services right to them. Advanced technology is used to track patients to provide efficient care and to deliver “edutainment”–education and entertainment in a personalized and technologically advanced way to each patient. The critical need to link care and research in order to enable the development of tomorrow's treatments means that members of the research team are embedded in the facility, right next to the patients they serve.
The physical space was designed to reflect these core values. Comfort of patients, family, and staff; maximal exposure to light; and use of warm inviting building materials and furniture were cornerstones of the planning process. A goal for the planning group was to create a homelike atmosphere with all of the attributes of a tertiary medical care facility easily accessible but not readily obvious. Their mantra was that “if you would not want it in your home, you should not see it in the Lemieux Center.” The patient spaces were designed to provide opportunities for patients to have privacy when desired (private rooms and movable partitions between treatment cubicles) or social interactions with fellow patients and families to provide mutual support. A truly special feature is the renovation of the terrace at the front of the facility to create a green space–complete with a putting green! Visible all year from the bank of windows that fronts the Lemieux Center treatment space, the terrace will provide a place for patients and families to retreat to a small outdoor space during their down time on a busy treatment day. The terrace also provides a welcome change in the profile of the Hillman Cancer Center as one drives up Centre Avenue, bringing a bit of green to the neighborhood.
The ribbon cutting for the Mario Lemieux Center in December was a truly joyous occasion. Members of the Mario Lemieux Foundation Board including Mario and Nathalie Lemieux, Board Chairman Tom Grealish, Board Member and critical advisor, Dr. Andy Urbach, and Executive Director Nancy Angus, as well as key leaders of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Council, including leaders Sy Holzer and Elsie Hillman joined us to celebrate the beginning of the next decade of care at the Hillman Cancer Center as embodied in this space. At the event we learned that Mario Lemieux will celebrate his 20th anniversary as a cancer survivor in 2013. There can be no more inspiring message for the many patients who will come through the doors of the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers. We will strive to add members to the ever increasing team of cancer survivors!