A $5 million expansion to the Frank C. Love Institute gives SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital greater opportunities to serve cancer patients from across Oklahoma.
When the expanded Frank C. Love Cancer Institute at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City’s Midtown was dedicated on Valentine’s Day 2020, no one could predict that just a month later life as we knew it would turn on its head by COVID-19. For cancer patients at St. Anthony, however, there was a silver lining.
“If we hadn’t expanded before the pandemic, we wouldn’t have been able to treat all of our cancer patients because of the social distancing requirement,” recalls Sherry Rice Rhodes, vice president, philanthropy and foundation at the SSM Health St. Anthony Foundation. “It was a sobering thought.”
Before the $5 million expansion began in May 2019, the space dedicated to cancer patient care was located in the hospital’s basement. It was so crowded family members couldn’t always sit with their loved ones receiving treatments. There was no natural light because there were no windows. The thick concrete walls necessary to shield the radiation oncology department’s nearby treatment equipment resulted in spotty internet service or none at all.
“We literally were bursting at the seams,” Rhodes recalls. “We toyed with the idea of constructing a new building but decided that we'd rather keep the Cancer Institute here at the hospital so that if a patient needed other services, everything would be available to them right here. So we reconfigured space to accomplish that goal.”
The expansion relocated all medical oncology cancer services to the third floor, more than doubling the size from 6,400 square feet to 13,454 square feet. The new space has windows, natural light, internet service, a nourishment center, multiple bathrooms, space for 32 chemotherapy chairs in private and semi-private areas, and area for family members to sit comfortably with their loved ones. It also has a resource center, which provides compassion and support patients need on their treatment journey.
“It's so much more uplifting,” Rhodes says. “People who have been diagnosed with cancer say your heart stops beating when you hear those words. To be in a space that is comforting and welcoming is important to their treatment and recovery.”
The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation contributed $50,000 to the project. Since 1971 it has granted a total of $1,130,000 to the St. Anthony Hospital Foundation.
“The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation’s granting program provides funding to charitable organizations that cultivate good health, as well as those supporting education and building stronger communities,” explains Stacy Newman, director of philanthropy for the Noble Foundation. “The recent grant to St. Anthony Hospital Foundation supporting the Frank C. Love Cancer Institute fulfilled the Foundation’s desire to improve health care of Oklahomans and support the growing need for cancer care to all families across our state.”
The American Cancer Society has estimated that 22,820 Oklahomans will receive the news they have cancer in 2021. The most common cancers in the state are lung and bronchus, breast, and prostate.
“‘Cancer’ is one of the scariest diagnoses to hear and the St. Anthony Foundation found a way to ease the anxiety of each patient by providing a space conducive to healing and comfort,” Newman adds. “People matter most at the Frank C. Love Cancer Institute, and the improvements allow them to provide compassionate and exceptional care during a difficult time.”
Jamie Farha is one of those people. Farha, who served as co-chair of the fundraising committee for the Cancer Institute expansion project, was thrilled the day it opened its doors in February 2020. But she never expected to walk through those doors six months later as a patient.
“In August 2020, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Farha explains. “The diagnosis didn’t make sense. I had never felt better in my life. I was at the top of my game. I went into shock and denial. In a single moment, I went from being a fundraiser for the Institute to being a patient at the Institute.”
There was no question that she would be treated at the Frank C. Love Cancer Institute.
“The physical changes — the space, the light, the happy environment — made a world of difference,” she says. “But what you’d never know if you didn’t journey the path as a patient is how beautiful the Institute’s team approach is. What they offered was way beyond the physical change. Their care, support and comfort allowed me to walk the path that so many cancer patients walk in arms that were so loving.”
Today, the Frank C. Love Cancer Institute is the second busiest in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area and serves patients from across the state. It currently provides services to 13.2% of Oklahomans seeking outpatient cancer treatment and 20.9% of those seeking inpatient oncology care.
“Our goal is to become the leading integrated cancer program, offering a full spectrum of clinical services, as well as prevention and wellness programs,” Rhodes says. “We care for our patients with an uncompromising commitment to clinical excellence and customer service.”
She adds that the expansion has allowed St. Anthony Hospital to serve a growing number of patients with additional oncologists and advanced equipment and technology.
“Patient growth is occurring through partnerships that include expansion of our telemedicine programs, growing our management agreements and partnerships with rural hospitals, increasing our rural outreach clinics and adding new health plexes,” Rhodes says. “Patient satisfaction, as measured by independent surveys, is continuously evaluated for action by clinical and executive staff. Currently, our oncology patients rank us in the top 2% in the nation for patient satisfaction.”
Farha, who completed her treatment in April, can attest to that high level of patient satisfaction.
“I think the reason I’m so passionate about St. Anthony is that they’re true to their mission: They will provide healthcare to anyone who comes here,” she says. “It’s a beautiful place to get the best medical treatment in the state of Oklahoma.”
Rhodes, who has spent the bulk of her career at the SSM Health St. Anthony Foundation, agrees.
“The Frank C. Love Cancer Institute is one more way we’re living out our mission every day,” she says. “Our hearts and our doors are open. We are firmly committed to that.”
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