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New facility designed to be a model cancer center

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute today dedicates its Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, a sophisticated clinical facility designed with extensive involvement from patients to speed the availability of new therapies in a comfortable, safe environment.

The Yawkey Center is the keystone of Dana-Farber’s commitment to providing the most advanced and compassionate care possible, guided by the latest in clinical and laboratory science and tailored to each patient’s unique cancer.

The attractive, 14-story, 275,000 square foot facility will house most of the adult outpatient care provided at Dana-Farber, beginning January 30.

“The Yawkey Center for Cancer Care is the product of a shared vision held by so many people, from our patients and families to our faculty and staff,” said Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD, president of Dana-Farber.

“It will enable our clinicians to provide patients and their families with the finest care and treatment options available in a safe, welcoming, patient-centered environment, as well as facilitate the translation of laboratory advances into new, more effective clinical treatments sooner.”

The Yawkey Center is named in honor of the Yawkey Foundation, which made a $30 million gift during Dana-Farber’s recently completed $1 billion capital campaign. The Yawkey Foundation’s gift continued the long relationship between Dana-Farber and the late Tom and Jean Yawkey, former owners of the Boston Red Sox, and underscored the Yawkeys’ nearly half-century of dedication to the fight against cancer.

Creation of the Yawkey Center comes after a dramatic increase in the number of patients Dana-Farber cares for and the rapidly accelerating pace of cancer research, both in the clinics and the laboratories.

Between 2001 and 2009, outpatient visits and infusions at Dana-Farber more than doubled, from nearly 128,000 to more than 299,000 annually. The number of clinical trials available to Dana-Farber patients increased nearly 80 percent, from 409 trials to 736.

Dana-Farber officials expect this growth to continue, due in part to the aging of the U.S. population — cancer disproportionately strikes people over 60 — and increased survival rates.

The Yawkey Center will have 104 exam rooms and 139 infusion chairs — about a 30 percent increase of Dana-Farber’s current capacity on its main campus — and 17 consult rooms. It will house the adult treatment centers, an expanded clinical research center to conduct complex, early-stage clinical studies, and centralized registration, pharmacy, and laboratory services.

In addition, the Yawkey Center will be the home to an expanded range of patient and family services, a two-story healing garden, new interfaith chapel, and two floors of physician offices. The Yawkey Center also gives Dana-Farber a more prominent presence on Brookline Avenue and will serve as its new main entrance.

The Yawkey Center’s design incorporates input and review from architects, engineers, public officials, faculty, staff, and members of Dana-Farber’s Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFAC).

By using this approach, Dana-Farber officials believe they have created an environment designed from the ground up to foster healing and maximize patient safety and comfort, making it possible for staff to provide its signature, patient-focused, innovative care.

“It was clear from day one that Dana-Farber’s administration valued the input from its patients and their families, and its staff, on the Yawkey Center’s design,” said Marlene Nusbaum, a seven-year breast cancer survivor, a member of the adult PFAC, and co-chair of the Patient Experience Committee.

“From exam room layout to the plans for parking to the elements in the healing garden, our opinions and suggestions greatly influenced the building’s design and the processes that will occur within the clinics and throughout the center. The Yawkey Center truly presents a fine balance of medical excellence, beauty, and healing.”

During the design process, Dana-Farber incorporated a number of safety elements that focused on in¬fection control, injury prevention, and creation of a safe and ideal working environment.

This included using seamless countertops in clinical spaces and the optimal placement of hand-washing sinks to reduce the risk of infections; embedding stainless steel strips into the lobby’s stone steps to help prevent slips and falls; installing handrails in the exam room changing areas and hallways in the clinical areas to assist those who may be feeling weak, tired or unsteady; and conducting acoustic reviews to guide the creation of a calmer, less distracting environment for patients and staff.

Dana-Farber’s mission to combine patient care with innovative research also influenced the building’s design. Each of the treatment centers on floors 6 through 10 are connected by a bridge to the corresponding research areas in the adjacent Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Laboratories building.

The light-filled bridges, which will feature café tables, coffee machines and wireless Internet access, were designed to allow for easy passage between labs and clinics, and to be an inviting environment that draws together clinicians and researchers, facilitating collaboration and exchange.

This patient care/laboratory science connection is exemplified by the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. The medical staff will care for patients with breast and gynecological cancers on the Yawkey Center’s ninth and tenth floors, while across the bridge the research staff will conduct related laboratory studies.

Those clinicians and researchers will now be able to connect more quickly when they believe they have made a discovery that may influence clinical care or provide insight into the basic understanding of the disease process.

Another benefit is that it will be easier for those Susan Smith Center faculty members who are clinician/scientists to maintain their patient care and research schedules.

The Yawkey Center also incorporates an array of sustainable design features, including low-flow plumbing, a light-dimming system that adjusts to available daylight, automated shades that raise or lower depending on the amount of sunlight coming in to maximize use of natural light while reducing glare, and a heat recovery system that reclaims energy by warming or cooling outdoor air.

The majority of the building’s tiered roofs are planted with native foliage, such as grasses, sedums, and other low-lying groundcover. These green spaces — the first in the Longwood Medical Area — will help cool the building in the summer, improve air quality, and reduce the rate of storm water runoff.

Taking cues from nature, the Yawkey Center’s interior design utilizes curves and rounded elements, natural light and calming colors. Nature is also being brought indoors with the two-story Thea and James Stoneman Healing Garden, which features seasonal flowers, shrubs, and plants, including stands of bamboo that will be nurtured by grow lamps in the ceiling.

Next to the Healing Garden, and separated by glass walls, is the Richard P. and Claire W. Morse Conservatory, which offers a plant-free environment with negative air pressure to protect patients with allergies, compromised immune systems, or other health issues.

The Yawkey Center will feature 350 pieces of art, a testament to Dana-Farber’s belief in the healing effects of art. The collection, much of which has been donated, includes a variety of media and styles, including sculpture, oil paint, watercolor, glass, prints, textiles, and photography.

Large, original works will be displayed in major patient areas, such as a kinetic mobile that will hang in the atrium lobby. The collection will also include a rotating art exhibit on loan from a generous benefactor and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The first slated exhibit, to be installed in a prominent third floor corridor, will feature three decades of advertising drawings produced by artists commissioned as fashion illustrators.

The building’s design was led by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, a national architecture, planning, and interior design firm, with design support from Miller Dyer Spears, a Boston-based architectural and planning firm. Walsh Brothers, Incorporated oversaw construction management.

The Yawkey Center will formally open for patients on January 30.

Courtesy of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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