SACRAMENTO — The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center recently opened the adult patient centers of its $36 million new wing, bringing patients of all ages under one roof for a more coordinated operation.
The 46,000-square-foot expansion responds to increased demand for cancer clinical care and research in the local center’s large coverage area. The plan to integrate and improve services began 10 years ago, after limitations at the original center were reached.
“Unfortunately, we grew a lot faster than anyone would like,” said Jeanine Stiles, associate director of the UCD Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Nobody wants to see people get cancer.”
With the new wing’s launch on Sept. 24, the entire UCD cancer treatment facility now comprises 110,000 square feet. Today, the center provides care for approximately 10,000 adult and adolescent patients yearly.
Prior to the expansion, child cancer patients were seen in another building a couple of blocks away on the UCD Medical Center campus in Sacramento. The entire first floor of the new wing is dedicated to an updated pediatrics clinic.
Spacial constraints are no longer an issue for patients like 16-year-old Matthew Graef, who is undergoing infusion treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The high school athlete’s adult-like physique stands out among the kids and infants hospitalized in the pediatrics ward.
“We’ve been dealing with UC Davis for the past five years,” said Lisa Graef, Matthew’s mother. “At the old infusion room, he just felt too big for it. … Even though he’s still in pediatrics, it just feels more mature now.”
Part of making the treatment of young adults feel more comfortable is the privacy afforded to the patients, to alleviate some stress from an already incredibly challenging situation.
“Because we’re here three days a week, it’s good that he has that extra space,” Graef said. “There’s an isolation room, and he doesn’t need to be isolated, but it’s just a nice, quiet place for him to rest — undisturbed by the in-and-out traffic.”
The sentiment is shared by 20-year-old Evelia Rodriguez, who battled acute lymphatic leukemia in the former pediatrics unit. Last year, Rodriguez celebrated her high school graduation in a hospital bed due to complications from chemotherapy treatment.
Rodriguez is showing signs of a successful recovery from the life-threatening disease. Family by her side, she commented on the new youth healing center’s calm environment:
“It definitely feels like the old place was more childish, and less relaxing, than it is here. This is much better.”
Combining the pediatric clinic together with the adult cancer treatment hub also improves continuity of care for these adolescents, who sometimes continue to face health problems as they progress into adulthood.
“We’ll be able to ease that transition because everyone is here together,” said Dorsey Griffith, public information representative for the center. “The clinicians can communicate, which makes it a better continuity of care for those patients.”
Besides the patients joining the center’s main location, the staff and clinicians who once were housed in the temporary facilities will be in proximity of the headquarters at the new wing.
“It’s going to be great to have everyone co-located again because everyone sort of wants to be with the mother ship,” Stiles said. “For morale reasons, it’s really nice to have that integration.”
The new wing also includes an adult patient care and resource center on its second floor. There is a bridge on the upper floor that connects the newly constructed building to the original cancer center, which continues to house radiation oncology and other departments.
Throughout the second and third floors of the new wing, there are 16 exam rooms and an infusion center with a capacity of 31 patients.
“It feels absolutely incredible (to have the center open),” Stiles said. “Mostly because it provides a beautiful place for our patients. … Going through cancer is really tough, and being seen in a nice facility hopefully makes the experience a little bit more palatable.”
The development was funded with $18 million in donations, which includes a $5 million contribution from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation. The remainder of the center’s $36 million construction cost came from UCD Health System subsidies.
The fundraising efforts are ongoing. Stiles said there is a second, uncompleted phase of development that would involve an expansion of the radiation oncology department, an extension of the adult cancer clinic and a permanent relocation of the research staff who currently operate in nearby trailers.
While the continued expansion will require some large contributions, Stiles added, the faculty employed by the center are likely to see it through. UCD’s medical staff was involved heavily in the planning process for the new wing, and many volunteered time to get the facility ready for patients.
“It’s just heartwarming to see that the staff care about our patients so much,” Stiles said. “People who are in oncology truly want to be doing what they’re doing.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052