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New Cancer Infusion Center Opens At Baptist Hospital

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

The ribbon was cut at Baptist Cancer Institute, for its new and improved Cancer Infusion Center.

The renovation was two years in the making, at a cost of more than one million dollars. One hundred thousand of that came from businessman Quint Studer and his wife Rishy. The Studers contacted Baptist President and CEO Mark Faulkner about their planned gift, and asked Faulkner if he could come up with the best use for it.

“We were sitting one day and I said ‘Let’s give something to Baptist Healthcare,’” said Studer. “[Rishy] said OK and I said ‘What do you think we should give?’ and she said ‘What if we do a hundred thousand dollars?’”

Seventy-five thousand dollars from the Baptist Health Care Foundation also were used for the project.

“Infusion is basically a medication that’s used to try to kill the abnormal [cancer] cells that are invading the good cells,” said Brian Taylor, Director of General Surgery/Oncology Service Lines at Baptist Health Care. “We give [intravenous] chemotherapy for people fighting for their lives.”

The doctors prescribe the infusion, and nurses certified in chemotherapy administration give it. It’s an effective form of treatment, but not always a stand-alone protocol.

“It can be [given] in conjunction with other things,” said Taylor. “It could be in conjunction with surgery at some point or another; it could be in conjunction with radiation therapies. So having this new infusion center that adjacent to our radiation/oncology department is key, because a lot of patients have a combination of both.”

Before the project, the infusion center had about 16 open-area treatment chairs spread over 2,500 square feet – treating both chemo and non-chemo patients all day. It’s now expanded to about 4,500 square feet, with individual bays, with the chemo and non-chemo cases separated.

“They have their own chair; they have their own family chair, they have their own IV fusion pumps, their own television so they can have more of a relaxed atmosphere,” Taylor said. “Instead of having it in such an open and busy area.”

Stephanie Young, the Infusion Center’s Clinical Manager, adds that the more comfortable the patient can be made, the more effective the often-complex and lengthy treatments can be.

“These patients are sick; they don’t feel well when they come in, they have a bad diagnosis – having cancer is bad enough,” said Young. “We want to make their experience the best we can; that’s why we went the extra mile to include some of this luxury.”

Patients are allowed to bring in any guest (friends, relatives, counselors or clergy) to sit with them during their treatments. The center will treat up to 40-60 patients per day in the expanded space, with about half getting chemo. Young says the larger space actually makes her job easier.

“The space we had upstairs, we’ve just grown out of,” Young said. “Sometimes we’d run out of seats. Being down here will make those things better; the pharmacy we have down here is much larger. They’ll have more staff; we’ll be able to treat patients hopefully with less wait time.” 

Back in the day, there was a limited regimen of cancer treatment, regardless of what part of the body was stricken. But now, Baptist’s Brian Taylor says they can pinpoint the cancer with targeted therapies.

“And then there’s a whole wave of oral chemotherapy that’s coming out,” Taylor says. “So in the next few years we’ll see a shift of IV chemotherapy to similar oral treatments too, or a combination of both.”

More information is available at www.eBaptistHealthCare.org.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.