Smilow Melds Welcoming Touches, State-of-the-Art Care

For Jessie Papagoda of East Haven, Connecticut, the opening of Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven changed everything.

Until last October, Jessie and all cancer patients at Yale had to spend much of their day traveling between several buildings on the medical campus for diagnostics, evaluation and treatment. They now receive everything they need under one roof at Smilow, the new home of physicians from the Yale Cancer Center (YCC) and Yale Medical Group.

Papagoda says that the new hospital has made her treatment and her life much easier. “There’s just one stop now. You don’t have to go to different departments and wait,” she says. “It was a blessing, really.”

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Her physician, Dr. Peter Marks, chief clinical officer for Smilow Cancer Hospital and associate professor of hematology at YCC, says centralizing all of Yale’s cancer services has made his life better as well.

“As a provider, Smilow has allowed me to spend more time with my patients,” he says. “We can locate them more easily. Before, we’d have to go several hundred yards between buildings to find them.”

The 14-story Smilow Cancer Hospital opened in October, with just a few services fully up and running. Now, the hospital is completely operational. An outpatient can come in for evaluation, diagnostic imaging and lab work, and receive radiation, chemotherapy or other treatment without ever leaving the building. Care to outpatients and admitted patients (who are hospitalized on the upper floors) is provided by a team of physicians, nurses and technicians who are all experts in a particular kind of cancer.

The $467 million Smilow Cancer Hospital was built with support from a major philanthropic gift by Yale alumnus Joel E. Smilow (Yale College, 1954) and his wife, Joan. Smilow is the former chair, CEO and president of Playtex Products Inc.

The design of the hospital is geared toward healing the mind as well as the body. In addition to housing state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, it includes several unique features that were suggested by a committee of cancer patients. Among these are an outdoor “healing garden” on the 7th floor, which has walkways that are heated to melt snow and take the edge off the cold. Because of this feature, the garden can be used year-round by patients and their families to relax and reflect.

In another nod to the psychological as well as physical needs of patients, there is a boutique on the first floor where people can be fitted for wigs, breast prostheses and lymphedema sleeves; hats, scarves, pill boxes and jewelry and other gifts are also on sale. The manager, Linda Secher, was recruited to come to New Haven from her home in Los Angeles because, she says, “I’d opened 24 boutiques like this across the country.” She will even help people fill out insurance forms.

Also, instead of having televisions in the waiting rooms, there are soothing fish tanks.

Medical oncologist and melanoma expert Dr. Harriett Kluger says patients find solace in these welcoming touches. “They love the building, the atmosphere of the waiting rooms and the garden,” she notes. These features and the new ability to get things like immediate surgical consults and diagnostic scans “makes the patients’ day much easier when they’re sick,” she adds.

Yale Cancer Center is southern New England’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, and one of only 40 in the nation. Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, director of YCC and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital, is determined to make the center the most comprehensive cancer care facility in New England.

“Smilow Cancer Hospital has transformed our ability to provide multidisciplinary care to cancer patients at Yale,” Lynch says. “It is an absolutely fabulous, state-of-the-art facility that will benefit patients from throughout the region as we continue to expand our programs and move toward providing personalized cancer care to every patient.”

— By Helen Dodson

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Helen Dodson: helen.dodson@yale.edu, 203-436-3984