April 9, 2008 – Before losing her own battle against pancreatic cancer in October 2001, Virginia State Senator Emily Couric invited the University of Virginia community to envision a very special medical facility – a cancer center dedicated to meeting the individual needs of each patient and to treating the whole person, not just the disease.
That vision will move closer to being realized on Saturday when the U.Va. Health System breaks ground for the new Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center, a $74 million outpatient facility that will be both technically advanced and designed for compassionate care.
Speakers at the groundbreaking will include Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, U.Va. President John T. Casteen III and U.Va. Health System CEO R. Edward Howell. The family of the late senator will also attend.
When completed three years from now, the five-story, 150,000-square-foot Couric Center will provide state-of-the-art therapies and comprehensive cancer care services to patients and their families. Currently, the U.Va. Cancer Center handles 41,000 outpatient visits a year and serves patients from Virginia and surrounding regions. One-third of its patients travel at least 100 miles to access services.
The new Couric Center will bring together multidisciplinary teams of caregivers and researchers and enable them to collaborate in treating patients. Beside offering physician consultations, family and patient counseling, infusion, high-tech radiotherapy and imaging services, the center will give patients access to a greater variety of clinical trials and new drug options. The facility will also house a pharmacy, a women’s cancer clinic, an image boutique that will sell wigs, breast prostheses and other items needed by patients, a meditation room and activity areas.
The building’s eco-friendly design will use natural light and garden spaces to create an atmosphere of hope and healing. Interiors will be comfortable and warm with each floor being decorated with themes from the regions of Virginia.
Construction of the Couric Center marks the beginning of a dramatic expansion and transformation of U.Va.'s medical facilities. During the next four years, the U.Va. Health System will add a 72-bed, eight-story tower to the front of the existing University Hospital and build a new children’s hospital. New street and landscaping designs will be included in the project. The U.Va. Health System is also planning to build a 40-bed, long-term acute care hospital.
The U.Va. Board of Visitors approved the naming of the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center in September 2006. The designation honors the late senator for her efforts to acquire new resources for cancer care and research in Virginia.
Funding for the Couric Center has come from both public and private sources. The Commonwealth of Virginia has appropriated $25 million, and the U.Va. Medical Center has committed $20 million. Private donors have provided approximately $16 million. Fundraising continues for the balance of the estimated $74 million in construction costs.
Fundraising is also underway for a proposed $4.6 million Education and Resource Center that will be built adjacent to the Couric Center. That facility will offer patient education and sponsor outreach programs to mobilize caregivers, community organizations and citizens in the fight against cancer.