A series of structural renovations completed this summer in the GW Cancer Center have allowed researchers to better collaborate and create unified patient care plans, officials said.
Officials said renovations for the Multidisciplinary Solid Tumors Clinics on the ground floor of the Medical Faculty Associates on the 22nd block of I Street were completed in May. The updates – including tripling the number of exam rooms and expanding waiting area space – have allowed doctors to better collaborate on one floor and given patients a more relaxed area to wait before receiving care, they said.
Michael Benedict, the associate center director for administration and finance of the Cancer Center, said the ground-floor renovations provide “state-of-the-art facilities” that help physicians and researchers conduct molecular and immunologic projects. He added that the open lab design – which houses several different types of researchers and doctors – also facilitates more collaboration between researchers.
“The clinical renovations provide much-needed exam space and patient-friendly waiting, check-in and check-out areas,” Benedict said. “The new clinical space on the first floor at the GW Medical Faculty Associates will also be conducive to collaborative care.”
Benedict said establishing an open space creates an opportunity for groups of faculty to come together, allowing them to collaborate for research and patient treatment. He said having updated facilities can help attract and retain “high-caliber” researchers, which could help the center achieve National Cancer Institute designation.
One of the Cancer Center’s top priorities is to obtain a highly coveted grant from the NCI to establish the center as a nationally recognized research hub.
Benedict said small renovations and a “refresh” of the clinical infusion space at the MFA location are planned for early next year.
Benedict declined to provide specifics regarding the cost of the renovations.
Eduardo Sotomayor, the director of the Cancer Center, said in a meeting last month that the renovations bring the center up to speed with other NCI-designated centers. He said the upgrades allow for all of the “experts” from different areas of cancer treatment to work together in one space.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” he said. “I think we are moving in the right direction.”
Mitchell Smith, the associate center director for clinical investigations in the Cancer Center’s division of hematology and oncology, said the overall patient experience has improved since the renovations were completed because the waiting space fosters a much “calmer, quieter, more peaceful atmosphere,” where patients don’t feel overcrowded.
“Our patients were sort of falling all over each other in the small, cramped waiting area,” Smith said.
Patients are now spread out over two different floors, he said.
Smith said the additional space allowed the Cancer Center to set up multidisciplinary clinics, where patients can visit medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgical oncology specialists in one visit. He said this cross-collaboration can improve patient care because doctors from all three departments can create a unified treatment plan for the patient.
He added that additional consultation rooms allow patients to meet with doctors to discuss hospice and palliative care options – a feature that wasn’t available before.
Smith said the renovations also allowed the center to use bulky cold cap machines, which pump cold liquid into a cap for chemotherapy patients to prevent hair loss during treatment. Before the renovations, doctors could not fit the machines into the rooms, he said.
Keith Mortman, an associate professor of surgery and the director of thoracic surgery, said the renovated space will promote the recruitment of more research faculty and clinicians, which will also allow for more clinical trials that lead to “groundbreaking discoveries.” He added that additional space may also prompt the center to collaborate more with the medical community in D.C.
“The ultimate goal is to become this designated center, which is a highly respected, cream-of-the-crop,” Mortman said. “That’s part of the University’s mission to help solidify GW’s place on the world map. This is one of the key components of that.”
Jared Gans contributed reporting.