Discover a Rockford-area facility designed not only for medical care but all of the supportive services help to make cancer treatment easier for patients.
When life as you know it comes to a screeching halt because you or someone you love receives the dreaded cancer diagnosis, life instantly feels dark and scary. Many people find comfort in knowing that the SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center, 3535 N. Bell School Road, Rockford, was designed from the inside out to provide not only top-notch medical expertise, but also a bounty of resources that help patients cope with their cancer journey.
The aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly medical center, which opened in 2013, brings together cancer patient services under one roof, while doing everything possible to help patients and their families look beyond the disease, find comfort, and feel they’re being treated with respect and dignity. Patients are encouraged to focus on living life to the fullest.
“There’s nothing else like it in our region,” says Diane Scoville, director. “The reaction is overwhelmingly positive. Patients tell us every day that the center is warm, calm, inviting and like home. People say that if they have to be at a cancer center, this is the place to be.”
Scoville was involved with planning the center since the beginning. An advisory panel that included patients, families, physicians and staff members was involved “every step of the way,” she says.
“We heard from our patients that they wanted to be at SwedishAmerican, but wanted everything in one place, and we listened to them,” she says. “To think we could build a building without patient input would have been very arrogant on our part and we would have gotten a lot of things wrong. If we hadn’t listened to patients and staff members, our building wouldn’t be the success it is today.”
Years ago, “the doctor was always right,” says Scoville. “Today, patients take an active role in their care. Numerous studies have shown that using holistic services with cancer patients reduces stress and promotes a more positive mental attitude, which helps them to deal with chronic pain and other medical conditions.”
As a division of UW Health, SwedishAmerican has access to oncology experts from the nationally recognized University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, which is committed to leading-edge research to provide better treatment for cancer.
SwedishAmerican worked with the UW research department for about 25 years before affiliating with UW Health in 2010 and then merging with it in 2014.
The Regional Cancer Center is the “brainchild” of the affiliation, Scoville says. Prior to the center, patients had to travel among four locations to get the testing and treatment they needed at SwedishAmerican. Going to Madison for specialized care was sometimes a hardship for them.
“Our primary goal has always been to bring the UW Health specialists to Rockford and work with patients and staff in person, not over the phone or through the Internet,” she says.
The award-winning, two-story, 66,000 square-foot building was constructed in 18 months and cost about $39 million.
Shortly after opening, the facility became the nation’s first freestanding cancer center to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design in Health Care (LEED-HC) certification from the Green Building Certification Institute. This designation recognizes structures that have been designed and built to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly, while having a positive effect on human health.
Among the criteria that helped the center earn its LEED certification:
• 80 percent of the 292 tons of construction waste was diverted from landfills.
• 68 percent of the building materials came from natural resources.
• The project reduced water usage by 20 percent.
• Natural light is maximized to provide a connection to the outdoors
• 90 percent of the building is made from reused and recycled materials.
SwedishAmerican is dedicated to improving the early detection of lung cancer in this region and has implemented a lung-cancer screening program that offers certain high-risk people screening without a physician’s referral.
Most often, lung cancer is a silently growing cancer and is undetected until it has progressed to a later stage, which decreases a patient’s overall survival rate.
The center’s multidisciplinary lung cancer team is one of only a few in the nation to be honored with the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval. The local team consists of a thoracic surgeon, medical and radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, radiologists, a pathologist and a nurse navigator.
“Screening is crucial and Illinois has some of the highest levels of advanced stage lung cancer in the country because people either don’t have the money or the insurance to cover the screening,” says Scoville. “And although we continue to find new ways to detect cancer, helping people will always be a challenge because of controversial health care reform. Until there is universal health care, some socio-economic groups will be underserved when it comes to cancer detection and treatment.”
The healing begins when patients approach the building. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with flowering plants and trees, a rock sculpture fountain, a one-mile walking path and a healing garden that takes them from one contemplative setting to another. There are benches for resting and a labyrinth that can be walked by foot or with the eyes, as a form of meditation. The healing garden zigzags over a babbling brook and rock gardens with fountains and a small waterfall.
Inside, natural light pours through floor-to-ceiling windows in the spacious two-story lobby. The décor is soft and neutral. Soothing music fills the air and commissioned artwork hangs on the walls. The focal point of the main entrance is a linear fireplace with flames that dance across ceramic glass pebbles. A wide-open staircase has clear acrylic sides identical to the panels lining the second floor hallway that can be seen from the entrance.
The first floor houses the radiation oncology and medical imaging departments. There are changing rooms with private lockers, comfortable family waiting rooms and a laboratory in which 90 percent of tests are done on-site. There’s a cancer resource center, prayer room, café, gift shop and conference rooms.
The radiation room is a linear acceleration vault. It has a 7-ton lead door that opens and closes with an electric motor, with battery backup in case of power failure. The 6-foot-thick concrete walls are lead-lined. The main piece of equipment in the room is the new Varian Truebeam, an advanced radiotherapy system engineered to deliver more powerful cancer treatment with pinpoint precision, less radiation, and in much less time.
The other new state-of-the-art piece of medical equipment is the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner. The machine uses a nuclear medicine imaging technique commonly used to explore the possibility of cancer metastasis. Multi-dimensional views of a tumor can be seen with the aid of a CT X-ray scan performed on the patient during the same session.
The second floor houses a pharmacy and a medical oncology clinic (doctor offices). There are 50 chairs for private and semi-private chemotherapy treatment and infusion services for non-cancer treatments such as intravenous antibiotics and blood transfusions.
Each chemotherapy treatment area offers a heated recliner, visitor seating, light panels with patient controls, a TV, iPad and warmed blankets.
Most treatment chairs allow for a direct outdoor view of the sky, paths and ponds. Two private treatment rooms for bone marrow patients are positive-pressure rooms, with air ventilated outside to help protect compromised immune systems.
The Cancer Resource Center has a library, computer lab and spaces for exercise classes, support groups and other activities. There’s also space for pet, music and art therapy, and private counseling. Chaplain Colin Eversmann leads a monthly group discussion on how cancer treatment impacts spiritual matters.
Various classes are offered throughout the year, such as a jewelry-making class and a gentle stretching and strengthening class for those who feel weak and tired from cancer treatment.For more information about any classes or groups meeting at the resource center, call (779) 696-1663.
UW Health is an academic health center headquartered in Madison, Wis., anchored by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, in partnership with UW Hospital and clinics, a 566-bed hospital, and UW Medical Foundation, one of the nation’s largest multi-specialty faculty physician groups.
SwedishAmerican is a not-for-profit locally governed healthcare system comprised of two hospitals, 30 clinics, a home healthcare agency and a foundation.
Scoville was born and raised in Rockford and holds a B.A. from Northern Illinois University and a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from the University of Saint Francis in Joliet, Ill. She began working in healthcare at age 16, drawing blood for a local hospital lab. She later worked in customer service before being hired as an office manager for a group of local surgeons. She was hired by SwedishAmerican in 2009 to manage the medical oncology department and other clinics before she was offered her current position.
Dr. William Schulz is the medical director of the cancer center. He attended medical school at the U of I College of Medicine, received residency training at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., was granted a fellowship at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago and is board certified in medical oncology and internal medicine.
Additional SwedishAmerican medical oncologists include Dr. William Edwards, Dr. Harvey Einhorn, Dr. Merat Esfahani, Dr. Fauzia Khattak, Dr. Nameer Mardini and Dr. Sharon Shipp. Other team members include Physician Assistant Kristin Rindt PA-C, Radiation Oncologist Dr. Benjamin Durkee, Dr. Prakash Pedapati and Dr. Joycelyn Speight.
The cancer center employs 110 people, including specialists who come from Madison to practice in Rockford.
The building was designed by Saavedra Gehlhausen Architects of Rockford and Eckenhoff Saunders Architects of Chicago, and built by Rockford’s Ringland-Johnson Construction. The 25-acre site offers plenty of room for future growth.
“We’ll grow by offering advanced clinical research and specialized treatments for all types of cancer,” Scoville says. “I see us being able to provide university-level care right here in Rockford. My vision has always been to diagnose and treat cancer patients in the stateline area, so they don’t have to travel to Madison, Chicago and elsewhere to get what they need.
“Our center helps cancer patients on their journey from start to finish. We help them to understand their disease and treatment options, and to know what to expect. We also help them to cope as well as they can.”