Harbin Clinic physicians past and present lined up for the ceremonial groundbreaking at Second Avenue and West Fifth Street, where the center will rise.
Harbin Clinic President Dr. Ken Davis said the seeds for the new regional cancer center were planted a decade ago when former Jimmy Carter adviser Hamilton Jordan suggested the need for regional cancer centers of excellence across the state of Georgia. “We really wanted to consider Rome for a regional center, so the work started then,” said Davis.
“Rome, Ga., will join Columbus, Albany, Savannah and Atlanta with this kind of a regional center,” said Bill Todd, CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. Todd said the complex, which is expected to be completed by April 2011, will encourage interdisciplinary collaboration in a profound way.
Few communities have the research and doctors with clinical excellence to compare with the team that will come together in the new Harbin Cancer Center.
“These are all major university-trained doctors who want to be here. We want to see our patients in the grocery stores and at church,” Brock said.
Dr. Matt Mumber, who was recognized by the state as a “Distinguished Clinician Scientist” in the field of cancer care, said he doesn’t know what cancer care will look like in 30 years, but he said the Rome facility will provide the best opportunity for patients and families to get the kind of care they will need. “We will be able to address patient care all levels, mental, emotional and physical,” Mumber said.
The team concept will be critical in the ongoing development of the new Harbin Cancer Center.
Davis said that early in the planning stages it was apparent to him that he needed to bring the independent cancer physicians into the Harbin Clinic’s fold, mentioning Mumber and Dr. James Santoro by name.
“We knew we needed additional young outstanding oncologists,” Davis said.
Davis mentioned Dr. Melissa Dillmon and Dr. Dilawar Khan as among the first to be recruited to Rome. “Melissa told us from the start that she wanted to be associated with a regional center like this,” said Davis.
He said the creation of Cancer Navigators, a not-for-profit agency that offers a broad scope of services primarily to newly diagnosed cancer patients, was the next ingredient in the formula for the new cancer center.
Rome’s participation in clinical trials for new treatments is a key component to the project, and with the help of the Georgia Cancer Coalition and Bill Todd, more than 50 different clinical trials have been brought to the Rome cancer team, Davis said.
“We also knew the hospitals had to work together. We asked them to put down their competitive swords and they did just that,” said Davis.
Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center joined with Harbin to bring a new CT-PET scanner to the comprehensive cancer center. “What they have done is incredibly unusual in health care,” Davis said.
Todd said that 85 percent of cancer care comes in community settings and not in the big university hospitals or nationally renowned clinics.
Todd told the group of maybe 150 community leaders that Rome is in step with what’s going on at the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the various cancer support groups such as the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
So many new health care facilities that are constructed across the country are about bricks and mortar, Davis said.
“We have the processes, now it’s our time for the bricks and mortar,” Davis said.
The new cancer center is expected to cost close to $15 million when it is brought online in the spring of 2011. Brasfield and Gorrie of Kennesaw was awarded the construction contract for right at $10 million.
Harbin officials have estimated the cost of furnishing the state-of-the-art facility will cost close to $5 million.