Cancer, Heart Centers Top Newsmakers

    GRAND RAPIDS — West Michigan’s health-care community is going through some drastic changes, and two of those changes headline the Business Journal’s 2005 Newsmaker of the Year Award.

    The Meijer Heart Center and the Lacks Cancer Center, projects of Spectrum Health and Saint Mary’s Health Care, respectively, are the co-winners of this year’s award.

    A crowd of nearly 400 people at today’s Economic Club of Grand Rapids luncheon cheered the outcome, which was held in secrecy until this afternoon.

    “It’s the first time we’ve ever had a tie for the top spot,” said John Zwarensteyn, Business Journal publisher. “And I think each is deserving of the honor.”

    Editor Carole Valade said the Journal’s Editorial Board, which selects the recipient each year, showed strong support for both entries.

    “As the Business Journal Editorial Board considered these 10 stories, significant discussions and support were given to the wide-ranging impact — and need — of both the Meijer Heart Center and the Lacks Cancer Center. The individual and unique aspects of both were considered, and it became apparent that together, not one onto itself, but the two together have a tremendous impact on the entire West Michigan region,” she said.

    Spectrum Health CEO Rick Breon called the heart center’s dedication “one of the most significant events that has ever happened at Spectrum Health.”

    Already ranked as one of the top 100 cardiovascular hospitals in the United States, Spectrum Health will have a greater ability with the Meijer Heart Center to recruit and attract top physicians in cardiac care who can elevate the program further, said Fred Meijer, who provided the lead donation to the public capital campaign for the $137 million heart center.

    “It’s an amazing facility,” he said. “We can build on this. It’s not only the physical facilities but the people who are going to staff those facilities that are going to make them greater and greater and greater. That’s when good attracts more good.”

    Valade said it’s the “domino effect” that will enhance the health-care community in particular, and West Michigan in general.

    “These projects will be a catalyst for West Michigan for years and years to come,” she said. “And not just in health care, but in the attraction of existing and new businesses, financial growth and intellectual growth.”

    Spectrum opened the nine-story, 164-bed Meijer Heart Center on Nov. 29, consolidating all of its cardiac care into a single location on the Butterworth Campus, which should provide for a greater continuity of care.

    The Lacks Cancer Center will do much the same for the care of cancer patients in West Michigan.

    Many of the amenities designed into the building — spacious, private inpatient rooms with sleeper chairs for family members who wish to spend the night, for example — are designed to aid a patient’s emotional well-being, which in turn can affect how they respond to medical treatment. The center was funded completely through philanthropy, including a $10 million gift from the family of the late Richard J. Lacks Sr. Its environmentally friendly design features a top floor that sports a conservatory, an outdoor garden and walking path for patients and their friends and family to use. The center also houses a TomoTherapy CT scanner/radiation treatment unit that enables doctors to better pinpoint and treat tumors. The unit is one of only 28 in use in the world and Saint Mary’s was chosen as one of 20 centers of excellence where the manufacturer will measure patient outcomes and provide on-site support.

    “The Lacks Cancer Center is at the forefront of a whole new way of treating cancer patients,” Valade said. “It’s a humane way of treatment that takes into account the whole family, not just the patient, and is a blueprint for cancer centers across the country.”

    The $45 million Lacks Cancer Center consolidates all of Saint Mary’s Health Care’s cancer treatments into a single location that provides an integrated-care model blending clinical expertise, modern medical technology and the health system’s “body, mind, spirit” approach that provides emotional support to patients and their families.

    “It’s an embodiment of the best of Saint Mary’s,” said Deb Stiemann, Saint Mary’s Health Care’s vice president of strategic planning. “It both elevates the level of clinical care and is a way to bring in other clinical expertise.”

    Saint Mary’s completed construction of the Lacks Cancer Center in December, but its impact on the health-care community was felt long before that.

    As a new medical center-of-excellence in Grand Rapids, the Lacks Cancer Center has already enabled Saint Mary’s to attract several new specialists and sub-specialists in cancer treatment over the past few years, and is expected to draw many more in the future.

    “What we’re talking about is new and renewed community leadership in every sector,” the Business Journal’s Valade said. “These are leaders this community wants to attract to West Michigan, and these are the types of treatment facilities we want to be known for across the country.”

    Kenda Klotz, director of the center, said a diagnosis of cancer often is unexpected and takes entire families by surprise.

    “Cancer has this big ripple effect, and the closer the family unit, the bigger the waves,” she said. “Our whole goal of this facility is to minimize the institutional feel and make it a warm space and a comfortable place.”

    Representatives of the Lacks Cancer Center and the Meijer Heart Center were recognized with framed commemorative front pages at a Jan. 24 meeting of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids.

    “Both of these projects are winners,” the Business Journal’s Zwarensteyn said. “But it’s Grand Rapids that will win because of these for years to come.”

    Other finalists included completion of the M-6 expressway; Perrigo’s entrance into the generic prescription drug market; the manufacturing sector’s improved clout in Washington; Michigan State University’s Grand Rapids medical school plan; passage of Grand Rapids Public Schools’ bond package;            the Lake Express ferry in Muskegon; downtown Grand Rapids’ housing boom; and the office furniture industry’s recovery.    

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