Cancer treatment center opens to public, students

Elaine Helm

CHICAGO — Mayor Richard M. Daley, University President Henry Bienen and philanthropist Ann Lurie joined about 200 other people on the Chicago Campus Monday for the opening of new outpatient facilities for Northwestern’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Ann Lurie and Prof. Steven Rosen, the center’s director, together cut a six-inch, purple ribbon to inaugurate the center after several speakers thanked them for their contributions to cancer treatment and research.

The 32,000-square-foot facility on the 21st floor of the Galter Pavilion will help NU offer the best possible care for patients and training for students at the Feinberg School of Medicine, said Lewis Landsberg, the school’s dean.

“I feel we have arrived,” Lurie said. “Welcome to the 21st floor.”

Lurie donated $5 million for the center, named for her late husband. When he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1987, the center’s outpatient facilities occupied a mere 2,000 square feet of clinical space, Lurie said.

But her faith in Rosen and his staff outweighed her misgivings about their cramped quarters. Since her husband’s death in 1990, her relationship with NU has continued.

Lurie gave $40 million to Campaign Northwestern for another Feinberg project just blocks away from the cancer center: the $165-million, 12-story Robert H. Lurie Medical Center, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2004.

Mayor Daley said Lurie’s gifts benefit the entire healthcare community and called NU’s medical center “one of the finest institutions not only here in Chicago but throughout the world.”

NU’s cancer center is one of only 40 in the nation designated as “comprehensive” by the National Cancer Institute. Doctors and nurses at the center utilize the latest treatments to care for more than 5,000 new patients each year.

The new facility includes a wide-open reception area and treatment rooms overlooking Lake Michigan that eventually will be equipped with TVs and DVD players. Room furnishings and artwork adhere to a warm color scheme, which center staff members hope will take patients’ focus away from their sickness, said Maureen Cahill, a nursing supervisor.

“It’s supposed to be about caring, not about feeling ill,” Cahill said. “Some things (about treatment) change as soon as you see (the new center).”

The opening ceremony gave patients, as well as donors and potential donors, the chance to tour the offices and treatment rooms.

Throughout the event, attendees munched on hors d’oeuvres such as truffles, shrimp and brie-filled pastries, and drank glasses of white wine and champagne.

They also had the chance to pick up a pamphlet outlining the center’s mission, major initiatives and opportunities for donations.

But even with the focus on the center, Rosen urged people to remember the people it serves.

“We can never, never lose sight of or worthy mission: to alleviate pain and human suffering,” he said.