Starting Oct. 7, the roughly 1,250 Harford County residents diagnosed with cancer annually will no longer have to travel to Baltimore or perhaps Pennsylvania for all their medical needs.
The leaders of Upper Chesapeake Health and the University of Maryland Medical System proudly unveiled the new, $61 million Patricia D. and M. Scott Kaufman Cancer Center off West MacPhail Road at the Bel Air hospital on Wednesday afternoon. Hundreds of medical, community and government officials attended an exclusive tour and ribbon-cutting of the 75,000-square-foot facility.
"The time is now," Upper Chesapeake President and CEO Lyle Sheldon said of the facility, noting the nearly $19 million raised was "the largest, most successful campaign in Harford County history."
Tour groups were ushered through the cancer center's two floors of gleaming new technology, architecture and art inspired by nature and calming features like two gardens and a meditation room.
Rooms where patients might be spending hours at a time feature large, lush photographs of natural scenes and distinctive art.
A machine for a computed tomography (CT) scan, for example, lay under a display of a twinkling galaxy with shooting stars.
The infusion center, with 27 spacious bays and three private rooms, is ringed with airy windows and opens onto a Garden of Faith, Hope and Healing that fills a deck on the second floor.
Outside the first floor, the Dresher Family Healing Garden features a series of stone-and-water sculptures and a labyrinth, as well as plenty of seating areas for visitors throughout the hospital, not just the cancer center.
Other features include a breast center, extensive radiation oncology area and areas for complementary or alternative medicine as well as Cancer LifeNet, which provides various resources and financial support for those facing a cancer diagnosis.
Hospital officials had explained that the center is needed because Harford has the third highest number of cancer diagnoses in the state.
The cancer center's motto is "Hope and healing close to home," and total money raised for the facility stood at $18.7 million as of Wednesday.
The Kaufman Cancer Center will provide multidisciplinary care including medical, surgical and radiation oncology, Sheldon said.
A partnership with the University of Maryland means patients can take advantage of the Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore as well.
Bob Chrencik, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System, said at the ribbon-cutting that the "impressive building" is an example of people working together.
"When it comes to treating cancer, it takes a community of people to do it," he said. "The demands of a growing and aging community were just going to increase and increase and increase."
"We believe health care is a very, very local business and we try very hard to preserve the local ties," Chrencik said.
The facility "is going to allow the Harford County people to get advanced, state-of-the-art cancer care right here, and that is a great thing," he said.
Philip Nivatpumin, medical director of the new center, said a recent patient told him: "I just want whatever time you can give me to feel alive."
With the completion of the facility, he said, "I see our community come alive and that, to me, is what this cancer fight is all about."
Navesh Sharma, medical director of the radiation oncology program, talked about the new equipment at the facility.
"The technology we brought here is among the best," he said. "I couldn't be more excited about this place."
Sheldon said many community leaders came together to help make "a glorious day in Harford County."
Harford County Executive David Craig joined the mayors of Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and Bel Air, the Bel Air town commissioners, Sen. Barry Glassman, Del. Wayne Norman, Del. Susan McComas and Del. Mary-Dulany James at the event. Also attending were Sheriff Jesse Bane and Harford County Councilmen Dion Guthrie, Dick Slutzky and Chad Shrodes.