Providing hope to Cholangiocarcinoma patients by raising critically needed research money for this aggressive and deadly disease with no cure, and supporting them as they navigate their journey through mentoring, love and prayer.
ometimes a building is more than just a building, and the new Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center is not just an outpatient treatment facility. More than anything it is an experience, one designed to ease patient anxiety, eliminate frustrations, inspire confidence in the future and enhance collaboration between caregivers.
"Our new cancer outpatient building is the result of years of planning and incorporates everything that we have learned about the delivery of compassionate, highly accessible, multidisciplinary care," says Brian Bolwell, MD, FACP, Taussig Cancer Institute Chair and holder of The M. Frank Rudy and Margaret Domiter Rudy Institute Chair in Translational Cancer Research.
At the core of the building's considerable ambience and leading-edge technology is a substantial upgrade to Cleveland Clinic's already exceptional cancer treatment.
Sound like a lot to expect from a building? Not when the structure itself is an invaluable partner in treating patients.
IT STARTS WITH THE TEAM
Before the new, seven-story, 377,000-square-foot Taussig Cancer Center opened March 6, some challenges faced the "team concept" of patient care. Specialists who treat cancer patients-surgeons, oncologists, dermatologists, liver specialists, nutritionists, cardiologists and others-were located in different buildings on Cleveland Clinic's main campus.
In the new Taussig Cancer Center, all the services a patient might need are in one building. "The new Taussig Cancer Center allows us to consolidate all services in a single location designed for maximum convenience," Dr. Bolwell says. "We go to the patient," says Matt Kalaycio, MD, FACP, Chair of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Taussig Cancer Institute.
Every patient is assigned a multidisciplinary team of professionals who manage the patient's care, including genetics, social work and imaging. The patient is based in one of the 126 new exam rooms or 98 treatment rooms, and caregivers visit the patient. The physicians and nurses aren't only cancer specialists; they also are specialists in the specific type of cancer affecting every patient.
"The breast oncologist is a doctor who only sees breast cancer patients," says Shannon Faulhaber, Director of Strategic Growth for the Taussig Cancer Institute. Ms. Faulhaber helped design the building's unique features. "Patients with similar diagnoses, and their caregivers, are clustered in dedicated 'disease pods.' Doctors who treat the same disease work together on the same floor, in the same pod. What we've devised is a fully integrated, multidisciplinary care model."
The team's coordination doesn't stop there. The layout includes a physicians' workroom lined with computers, and conference rooms to facilitate collaboration. "Doctors, nurses, nutritionists and the rest of the team can meet here and create a patient's treatment plan," Ms. Faulhaber says. "They can confer with each other, on the spot, while the patient is in the exam room."
"People don't always realize the value of doctors, nurses and other staff communicating with each other," Dr. Kalaycio says, "but it has a direct impact on patients' wellness, their chances for recovery. It's important for patient safety. With a plan in place, everyone's on the same page at all times."
Lisa Craine was diagnosed in 2010 with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare bile duct cancer. Prior to coming to Cleveland Clinic, she was told she had six months to live. She credits her multidisciplinary team with saving her life. Through five recurrences of the cancer and eight tumors, her team always has given her hope, she says. "My doctors always assure me that we are in this together. They are my heroes and my survival partners, and I would not be here without them. They are brilliant and compassionate!"
Mrs. Craine is grateful for the way her team could home in on the aggressive cancer. "They really are specialists-they look at my type of cancer every single day. Now I tell people that Cleveland Clinic is my second family, my cheerleaders, my heroes. They never took my hope away. When a doctor takes your hope away, you need to find a new doctor."
ELEVATING CANCER CARE
Cleveland Clinic, a National Cancer Institutedesignated cancer center, long has been recognized as a top destination for cancer treatment. "When you are a major NCI cancer center, there's an expectation of both outstanding clinical treatment and leading edge research," Dr. Kalaycio says. "These are basic, fundamental musts."
Cleveland Clinic's cancer program sets itself apart because "we provide services over and above what a patient would find elsewhere," he says. The distinction is in the details.
"For starters, we'll see a patient within a week of their first call to us," Dr. Kalaycio says. "That's unusual for a cancer center. And we're focused on driving down what's called the 'time to treatment'the number of days or hours between the initial diagnosis until we begin actual treatments-because many studies show that the sooner we can start the healing process, the better the chances for living a longer, healthier life."
The new building takes cancer care to an unprecedented level, with many features and services now under one roof. A few examples:
For a patient like John Panza, whose mesothelioma can make it difficult to climb stairs and walk in cold weather, having all the services he needs in one space is important.
"I had three rounds of chemo, 27 radiation sessions, and after I developed an infection in my chest, four surgeries in five days," says Mr. Panza, an in die rock musician and a professor of English and the humanities. He received his diagnosis in 2012. "The survival rate for my cancer is 5 percent, and most only last 18 months-but Cleveland Clinic got me through it. I found comfort in the fact that they were going to fight this for me."
The new building's patient-friendly design, including ease of parking, shows patients they are being cared for. "When you don't have energy, even thinking about where to go, where you should park, is stressful to your system," says Rene Barrat-Gordon, LISW, a social worker with Cleveland Clinic's breast cancer program. "This building has a warm, friendly atmosphere that you can feel as soon as you walk in the door."
Not all of the healing comes from medical treatment. Cancer patients have nonclinical needs, too, and those are provided throughout the center:
HEALING CANCER INTO THE FUTURE
Beyond the new building's features, it's the Taussig Cancer Center's caregivers who really make the difference for patients.
Clinton Morgan is one such staff member. As part of Cleveland Clinic's "Red Coat" squad of Patient Guest Assistants, Mr. Morgan escorts patients wherever they need to go and, he says, his goal is to "make their stay here as comfortable as possible." He helps provide transportation, too, if they need to visit other buildings.
Mr. Panza says he appreciates this efficiency. "There are days when I feel a little roughed up," he says. "But I live every day, and I just keep moving. My daughter is 9, and we move at a ridiculous clip."
Mrs. Craine, too, has a full life. Along with working to raise awareness, she mentors other cholangiocarcinoma patients through the 4th Angel Mentoring Program. She is a devoted volunteer at Cleveland Clinic and meets regularly with patients. "I want to give others the hope that was given to me," she says. "Cleveland Clinic makes dealing with cancer as comfortable as possible. From the valets and red coats to the doctors and nurses, they make you feel like you are in good hands."
Due to the aggressiveness of her cancer, Mrs. Craine visits the Taussig Cancer Center every three months for checkups; yet, no matter what, she always has a smile and hug for everyone. "People ask me ifl am always happy, and I say, 'Yes, I am. What's not to be happy about? I get up every day thanks to God and Cleveland Clinic."'
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