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Apr 22, 2019 3:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Cancer Patients Can Now Receive Treatment Locally As Phillips Family Cancer Center Is Set To Open In Southampton

The chemotherapy infusion area at the new  Phillips Family Cancer Center in Southampton.  DANA SHAW
Apr 23, 2019 3:35 PM

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, in partnership with Stony Brook Medicine, will officially open its Phillips Family Cancer Center on April 25, becoming the South Fork’s first medical center to offer comprehensive cancer treatment.

Hospital officials will celebrate the opening of the facility on County Road 39A in Southampton with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and private tour for those who have aided in the project’s development since its conception 11 years ago.

“This has been a dream of many, many people for a long time,” Robert Chaloner, the hospital’s chief administrative officer, said last week. “It’s a very complicated facility to plan and build, and an expensive facility. But the fact that it’s now becoming a reality and will be opening—I’m very excited, because I think it’s going to give us the ability to really provide a whole new level of care for cancer patients in our community.”

The roughly 14,000-square-foot, two-story facility will house two cancer treatment, or oncology, units, one for radiation oncology and the other for medical oncology—chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy and hormonal therapy—in addition to offering counseling space, a pharmacy, and facilities for education and wellness programs.

Dr. Samuel Ryu, the deputy director of clinical affairs at the Stony Brook Cancer Center, will serve as director of the new center, working alongside other administrative leaders from the university and Southampton hospitals.

Total project costs came out to $25 million. Half of the cost was covered by fundraising efforts and large donations—the Phillips Family donation being chief among them—and the other half through a private loan that the hospital took out, Mr. Chaloner said.

The building’s two floors were designed to separate the two oncology divisions. The first floor will house the radiation unit, and the second floor will house the medical unit, where the chemotherapy infusion area can accommodate 14 patients at a time.

The first floor will also feature a nurse’s station and chemo-compounding pharmacy, and the second floor will have education and wellness spaces that will offer classes like yoga and nutrition education.

Another feature that Mr. Chaloner was particularly excited to announce was the office space the hospital made available for Fighting Chance, a Sag Harbor-based nonprofit that offers counseling and other support services to cancer patients, with which the hospital worked closely to create the new facility. The hospital will hire a cancer-specialized social worker to join the Fighting Chance team—one of the 20 new jobs Mr. Chaloner said the new center would bring.

“It’s not just about the health care resources, it’s also about people who may need help with transportation, with babysitters, just financial navigation,” Mr. Chaloner said. “It’s really wonderful what they’ve done.”

Fighting Chance has operated in a 1,500-square-foot office space in Sag Harbor for 18 years, serving about 2,000 cancer patients since its opening, said its founder and chairman, Duncan Darrow. The organization’s new 300-square-foot space will act as a satellite facility to serve a broader group of patients and complement the cancer center’s medical services.

“Until the cancer center, Fighting Chance was fundamentally a storefront … So we were not getting any patient flow or patient traffic because of a hospital next door or something. People came to Fighting Chance regardless of where they were receiving their medical treatment,” Mr. Darrow said.

“Now, we’re going to be physically in a building where people are getting cancer treatment—so it’s much easier for them to check in with Fighting Chance.”

The idea to have a local cancer center was developed more than 10 years ago based on a community need for such services. If a local resident needed radiation therapy, the closest treatment centers were in Riverhead, Setauket or Stony Brook. Fighting Chance and the Ellen Hermanson Foundation were part of the initial discussions with the hospital to make more oncology treatment accessible to the local community.

Mr. Chaloner said that hospital officials were also hearing from patients over several years about the difficulties they faced after being diagnosed and the distances they had to travel to receive proper care. One of the difficulties stemmed from the lack of coordinated care, as some patients needed to visit multiple medical facilities, he added.

Mr. Darrow shared an example of how a patient from Montauk, who came to Fighting Chance, would travel to Nassau County often for his cancer treatment. “He said, ‘I had to drive 10,000 miles to beat cancer,’” Mr. Darrow recounted. “There are many patients, particularly in the East Hampton-to-Montauk area, whose drive time for cancer treatment will be significantly shortened.”

The hospital’s recent partnership with Stony Brook Medicine opens the door to many more resources that the new center and its patients can use. The university hospital will set up clinical trials, and will supply rotating physicians and specialists on an as-need basis, according to Dr. Yusuf Hannun, director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center.

The Phillips Family Cancer Center’s computer system and medical records will also be linked to the university cancer center, so that all patient information is streamlined for increased coordination, especially in the instance when Southampton patients need to travel to Stony Brook University Hospital for more specialized care.

“I’m really looking forward to that as a prototype for how cancer care can be extended to relatively sparsely populated regions,” Dr. Hannun said. “I think this is very exciting for us, and it is very timely.”

Because the Stony Brook Cancer Center is an academic facility, Dr. Hannun spoke about how recent discoveries in cancer research and drug development—by his team and by researchers globally—have led to rapidly evolving cancer treatments. Modern research tools, a major one being clinical trials, have allowed researchers to unravel the complexities and sub-types of cancer and determine appropriate medical care.

“We haven’t solved everything, far from it, but the outlook now for many patients with cancer is dramatically different than 20 years ago,” the director said. “And some patients are living now who wouldn’t have 20 years ago.”

For the interior design of the new building, hospital officials said they wanted it to present a comfortable and healing atmosphere for patients. Kenneth Wright, chairman of the Southampton Hospital Association, played a big role in orchestrating the design concepts with the architecture and design firms.

Mr. Wright was born in the hospital and has stayed in the area ever since, so he was passionate about having the facility preserve the beauty of the area and reflect local traditions.

The property along County Road 39A was formerly a potato farm, where a barn previously stood, akin to the structure of the Parrish Art Museum. Officials said they thought the architecture of a potato barn worked really well with their idea, given that it honored local agricultural traditions and was a suitable structure for their split-story treatment center. So they shaped the design plans around that.

The top floor is bright and open, with skylights and a cathedral ceiling to help chemotherapy patients feel relaxed while they spend hours in the infusion area. The windows facing the rear parking lot overlook a garden that is actually planted atop the radiation vault.

Radiation treatment must be administered in an isolated and compact area to ensure that no radiation can escape, so the primary piece of machinery used to deliver radiation, called a linear accelerator, will be kept in a thick vault on the ground floor made out of 4 to 5 feet of concrete. The vault is technically located underground because of the 10-foot slope of the property.

“If we can give people receiving cancer treatment an attractive place to go, it’s the least we can do,” Mr. Wright said.

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