The old is being made new in 2011 … and ETMC will literally be ringing it in. The ETMC Cancer Institute in Athens, which closed its doors this past summer for remodeling and updating, will hold a public dedication ceremony this Friday from noon to 2 p.m. In addition to the facility itself, a "Hope Bell" for cancer patients is also being unveiled. The hope bell will be rung in celebration to mark the end of a patient's course of radiation therapy.
"As any cancer survivor will tell you, the journey of cancer is marked by many milestones," explained Elmer G. Ellis, president/CEO of the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System. "These can be a successful surgery, a completed round of chemotherapy, a final radiation treatment or a good report from the doctor. The Hope Bell provides a means for patients and their families to celebrate such a milestone in the spirit of enduring hope."
The primary objective behind the renovation was to replace the previous linear accelerator, used to deliver radiation, with a state-of-the-art dual energy machine. The dual energy linear accelerator is the most current technology of its kind available, allowing patients to receive even more precise radiation treatments with even fewer side effects. The new machine also speeds up the delivery of treatment. Internal mechanisms allow for the shape and intensity of the radiation beam to be altered without the use of external lead blocks and wedges, which previously were moved around by a therapist during a session.
In addition to switching out the machines, much of the time required by the renovation involved adding more lead to the vault which houses the more powerful equipment. The clinic was also remodeled to improve patient flow, and a lighted nature mural was added to the ceiling of the treatment room.
"We are always searching for ways to improve the patient experience. We wanted our patients to have something to look at other than white ceiling tiles while they're receiving treatment," said Todd Sigmon, vice president of the ETMC Cancer Institute. "Undergoing radiation therapy can be stressful and difficult. We hope we can help them relax by placing a nature scene on the ceiling."
The extensive renovation to the facility is part of ETMC's continuing commitment to bringing the best possible healthcare to Henderson County. In December 2009, ETMC Regional Healthcare System purchased what was up until then known as the Athens Cancer Center.
Radiation oncologist and ETMC Cancer Institute Medical Director Dr. Heidi McKellar has continued serving patients in the Athens area throughout the transition period. Dr. McKellar is an example of ETMC's second-to-none commitment. A former Stanford University professor, she trained at the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center.
"We are proud of the quality of medical staff in Athens," said Sigmon. "We have doctors here who trained at some of the best cancer centers in the country. Now that we're able to deliver IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) and all other external beam radiation treatments, there is no reason to seek cancer care elsewhere. Our patients will receive the highest level of care from doctors and staff who work and live in their communities, using the best equipment available anywhere."
About the Bell
The Hope Bell, which is to be dedicated Friday along with the renovated building, was hand-cast for ETMC by U.S. Bells in Prospect Harbor, Maine. The 8-inch, ship's-style bell bears the word HOPE beautifully embossed into the bronze. A plaque next to the bell reads: The Hope Bell/For our patients – Ring out the bell loud and true as you celebrate completion of your treatment!
The ETMC Cancer Institute in Tyler dedicated "Robyn's Bell" in December 2007, as it marked the 25th anniversary of the center. It is named for Robyn Rogers, who is a cancer survivor, philanthropist and friend of ETMC. The Hope Bell in Athens has been made possible through support from several community members, and additional gifts are welcomed in honor or memory of others. For further information, contact the ETMC Foundation at 903-596-3645.