As the Stanford
Cancer Center celebrates its 10th anniversary of serving
patients, many of those involved in its planning, construction and
operation reflected on the milestone.
"Stanford already had an incredible multidisciplinary approach
to cancer," recalled Charlotte Jacobs, MD, professor emerita of
oncology, who led the effort from 1993 until 2001 to design and build
the center. "But we needed a building to reflect the way we
Indeed, when Stanford broke ground on the building on Sept. 4, 2001,
Jacobs spoke of the achievement as being much more than a building.
"It is the vision of our faculty and staff cast in bricks and
mortar," she said. "It is an embodiment of our cancer
faculty. It reflects their multidisciplinary approach to cancer, their
zest for discovery, their superb clinical expertise and their
dedication and concern for patients."
Patients had long come to Stanford for its expertise in oncology.
But until 10 years ago, it could be a challenging experience: Patients
would have to navigate across campus and the hospital to receive care
in multiple locations. Waiting rooms on the ground floor of the
hospital were crowded, often standing-room only. There were long waits
for exam rooms. The infusion room for bone marrow transplant patients
resembled a walk-in closet. And there was no natural light in the
radiation oncology area. "It was a warren of dark rooms that did
not address the inner needs and struggles of cancer patients,"
Pizzo, MD, professor of pediatrics and of microbiology and
immunology, and former dean of the medical school.
Mitchell, MD, director of the Stanford Cancer Institute,
recognizes the foresight and vision of those who came before her.
"There was the recognition that cancer patients deserved a
special environment, and that Stanford needed to deliver on
that," said Mitchell, professor of oncology and of hematology,
who came to Stanford in 2005. "It has really improved the
atmosphere for cancer patients to have this light-filled building,
with music in the lobby and dedicated clinic space. It has made a huge
difference for our patients."
When the cancer center opened, Pizzo described it as having
"gone a long way toward alleviating the fear, anxiety and
discomfort associated with cancer care facilities."
"Indeed, this new facility serves as a model for Stanford and
for our community," he said.
The building is the physical structure that initially brought
together all the modality-based disciplines like medical, surgical and
radiation oncology, said Douglas
Blayney, MD, professor of oncology and medical director of the
cancer center. "First and foremost, that was good for patients in
terms of convenience," he said. "But it was also good for
patients because there were multiple specialists collaborating both in
time and in space on their particular cancer."
The center, by its design, allows professional interaction to occur
between clinical faculty who share workrooms and office space.
"This constant interaction between the physicians and the
tremendous camaraderie that it fostered went beyond what any of us
thought might happen," Jacobs said. "That accelerated the
level of patient care to a level we could not have anticipated."
The team tasked with designing the Stanford Cancer Center recognized
that cancer is not an individual disease, but a family affliction.
"Giving space and time for the families to come together into one
space that was designated for the treatment of their loved ones was a
big, intangible benefit," said Sridhar Seshadri, vice president
of the center, who led the process excellence work for the initial
center design team.
"We wanted to make it patient-centered," Jacobs said.
"We wanted to make it more comfortable for the patient." The
team spent a lot of time determining how the space would function for
patients and physicians. They wanted to create a warm atmosphere, with
quiet, intimate areas, but they also wanted a wow factor, Jacobs said,
with a grand piano in the lobby and a fountain out front.
Equally important was the desire to provide patients with ease of
access, a one-stop shop. Patients can go from the clinics on the first
floor to the infusion treatment area on the second floor to radiation
oncology on the ground floor. They can have prescriptions filled at
the onsite pharmacy, and grab a bite to eat at the café between appointments.
But getting the building designed and built was a tough, 10-year
process. It started in 1994, when David Korn, MD, who was dean of the
school at that time, asked Jacobs to coordinate the effort. She and Sarah
Donaldson, MD, professor of radiation oncology, created a small
working team that met regularly with clinicians in each cancer
specialty, as well as with nurses, support staff and patients, and
synthesized each group's priorities into the vision and blueprint for
the building. Former hospital president and CEO Malinda Mitchell's
expertise and leadership helped make the effort a success, Jacobs said.
In a show of unprecedented collaboration, the hospital
administration and the School of Medicine faculty aligned around the
belief that creating a defined place for cancer patients was critical.
The project required City of Palo Alto review. After a thorough and,
at times, challenging process with the city, the project moved forward
with unanimous approval from the City Council.
The success of the cancer center and its programs over the past 10
years has led to it outgrow its space. "Because of our ability to
give really excellent cancer care, we have increasing numbers of
patients," said Beverly Mitchell, who is also the George E.
Becker Professor in Medicine and who estimates current growth at
10-plus percent a year. Already, the center has expanded to the Blake
Wilbur Building, with the Stanford
Women's Cancer Center occupying the first floor, and the head
and neck and cutaneous cancer specialties on the third floor. In
January, Stanford opened a new infusion center in Redwood City, and
will open a new cancer center in July 2015 in the South Bay. The Jill
and John Freidenrich Center for Translational Research, which opened
in 2012, also houses key components of the cancer program.
In addition to managing future projected growth, the cancer center's
leadership team is turning its attention to transforming cancer care
at Stanford. The Stanford Cancer Transformation sets out to
"create a new cancer care model that is comprehensive,
multidisciplinary, highly coordinated and structured around the unique
needs of each patient," said Seshadri. Other goals include
creating new diagnostics and therapeutics, increasing the number of
clinical trials and hiring more physician-scientists.
Stanford aims to be a national model for efficient and effective
cancer treatment by combining leading-edge science with smart,
compassionate care, said Lloyd Minor,
MD, dean of the School of Medicine.
"Too often cancer care is not coordinated, not patient-centered
and not evidence-based," Minor said. "Our highly innovative
model for cancer care delivery and research is going to change that by
transforming the patient experience and bringing the best science to