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With the ribbon-cutting ceremony less than two months away and the first patients expected just two weeks later, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital's $34.5 million cancer center in Waterford is on the verge of becoming the one of the largest new additions to the region's medical facilities in many years.
On Wednesday, the center will achieve another milestone in its emergence into the health care landscape of southeastern Connecticut. From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Mystic Marriott in Groton, L+M will launch the public phase of its fundraising campaign for the new center, and at the same time celebrate the money raised thus far in the "quiet phase" of the campaign. During the initial phase, the hospital appealed to its longtime corporate and private donors to support the new center, which will be a unique affiliation with the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and will also provide services in partnership with Yale-New Haven Hospital and Women & Infants Hospital in Providence.
"We're taking our story to a larger audience," William Stanley, vice president, vice president of development and community relations at L+M, said Monday. "We'll make more people aware we're building this new, world-class cancer care center to bring a level of cancer care not previously available in this part of the state. Everyone we've asked so far has stepped up and pledged, and we think we can make a very compelling case" when the campaign expands to the general public.
Daniel Brannegan of Mystic, chairman of the Centennial Capital Campaign, said this is the first major fundraising drive for L+M in 20 years. The "quiet phase," he noted, began at a particularly difficult time a few years ago because the economy was deep in recession, but nonetheless donors responded generously. The hospital has raised about $17 million thus far, he said, more than halfway toward the total campaign goal of $30 million.
"The response from the community as been quite extraordinary," he said.
As the construction and fundraising continue for the 50,000-square-foot center, located off Exit 81 of Interstate 95, work is also continuing on the organization, staffing and programming for the new center, said Dr. Richard Hellman, medical director of the new center. He and other oncologists at the new center will become Dana-Farber employees, and will travel to Boston one day a month to work with specialists there, and those specialists will also work out of the Waterford facility regularly.
"We'll have second-opinion clinics, and tumor boards as a regular activity, where we'll be discussing cases online with colleagues in Boston," he said.
Patients will also have access to clinical trials and other treatment options at the new center that previously would have required a trip to Boston, New York or New Haven. The public's help, he said, is essential to the success of the center as a one-stop facility that brings the region's previously fragmented cancer services under one roof.
"Comprehensive cancer care cannot be sustained without the generosity of the community," he said.
The public campaign, Stanley said, will consist of presentations at various community gatherings and in private houses. Supporters of the project will be asked to invite groups of friends and associates to their homes for fund-raising appeals, and cancer patients have offered to give testimonials about the significance of having high-level cancer care available close to home, Stanley said.
"Cancer care can really drain you physically and emotionally, and not having to drive one to three hours to receive it will improve quality of care," he said.