Breaking New Ground: SMC celebrates cancer center expansion

Originally published on Stillwater News Press website on Dec 17, 2016 by Michelle Charles.

The relationship between Stillwater’s two cancer care providers has run hot and cold over the years as the institutions worked together but at the same time competed for patients.

A new partnership is changing everything.

Now Stillwater Medical Center and Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute, formerly Tulsa Cancer Institute, are breaking new ground and working together on an expanded and improved cancer center to serve not just Stillwater, but the entire north central region of Oklahoma.

SMC recently purchased OCSRI’s Stillwater oncology practice and its clinic located in the northeast corner of SMC’s Sixth Avenue campus for a total of $4.5 million.

Physicians from OCSRI will join SMC oncologist Dr. Akin Ogundipe in caring for patients at the renamed Stillwater Cancer Center. OCSRI staff will provide Radiation Oncology services on a contract basis.

OCSRI Chief Executive Officer Suanne Gersdorf said she thinks it’s a good partnership.

SMC has the financial resources to make needed improvements to the clinic and OCSRI will still be involved as its physicians provide patients with a continuity of care and bring expertise in specialized areas of oncology, Gersdorf said.

Most of the clinic staff is staying on and has accepted employment with SMC.

Gersdorf says both institutions are focused on ensuring patients receive the best care. Everything else falls into place when that is the priority and everyone has worked hard to smooth the transition for the patients.

“That’s the power of this collaboration,” she said. “Your doctor will be the same. We told them, ‘The name on the building might change but the people will remain the same.’”

Representatives from both organizations gathered with the SMC Foundation and community members Thursday to celebrate a construction project that will nearly double the cancer treatment facility’s size.

Four times as many patients will be able to receive chemotherapy at the same time and patients will have the option of private infusion rooms.

The facility will also have expanded waiting areas for patients and their families.

Flintco Construction will oversee the project, which will cost $6.4 million and take about 10 months to complete.

Oklahoma State University defensive tackle Mote Maile was a special guest at the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

The cancer center’s expanded reception and waiting area is to be named for his father, Sioeli Maile, who died from cancer last summer.

OSU alumnus Michael LaMonica, himself a cancer survivor, read an interview in which Maile talked about losing his father. LaMonica and his wife Madolyn were inspired to make a donation in the form of a challenge grant to honor Maile’s father.

They will match up to $100,000 raised between Thanksgiving 2016 and Thanksgiving 2017 for renovation of the waiting area.

Wearing a T-shirt covered with photos of his father and the words “Rest in peace, Sioeli Maile” written in the Tongan language, Mote talked about his father and what the LaMonica’s gift means to him and his family.

Although his father battled cancer for seven years, the loss is still fresh and Mote still speaks about him in the present tense.

“He is very hardworking, all about family and supporting other and being grateful,” he said. “He’s not a real emotional guy but I think he’ll be emotional when he comes here. For someone to take time out of their day to honor my father, it seems like a dream, not real, but I’m getting used to the idea.”

Maile said he plans to come back for the grand opening of Stillwater Cancer Center next year and he will bring his mother.

“My father’s story came far,” he said. “To have my family name stamped at my university means a lot.”

Originally published on Stillwater News Press website on Dec 17, 2016 by Michelle Charles.


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