Most visitors over the last few days have been struck by the amount of natural light and sense of space that the new, primarily underground department has. We asked patients to sit with our architects when the planning process started over two years ago and make suggestions with respect to the design. We were pleasantly surprised that while ensuring comfort and privacy were important to these patients, they also wanted to ensure that the new department afforded good, quality space for the staff. They felt that if the staff were well cared for, then the staff would be better able to care for them. That concept was referenced time and time again as we worked through the plans. Those that had a chance to tour through the department over the last few days affirmed our belief that it will be a great place to work.
As we spend more time in the department, and as we show folks around, we remember conversations and meetings about things as mundane as sink placement and carpet color. Thanks to the expertise of many at Fletcher Allen as well others, it appears as if the thousands of choices that were made came together beautifully. The largest wall in the waiting room is bathed in light from a skylight above. If you look up through the skylight you see leaves and branches on the trees in the rooftop garden. The wall itself is decorated with handcrafted, custom-designed ceramic tiles that take shape of a tree. The colors of the walls and floors throughout the department echo those of the garden. We hope that the feeling of nature that pervades what by necessity is a very utilitarian space will make our patients, their family members and friends more comfortable and welcome.
The commitment Fletcher Allen made to construct a new department gave us an opportunity to update our equipment. Over the last few years radiation delivery machines (linear accelerators) have been built with imaging tools that allow us to precisely pinpoint the location of cancer targets with previously unachievable accuracy. We have been able to adapt to these changes over the years by adding some of these imaging capabilities, but our new machines will have completely integrated, state of the art technologies that will make our current treatment process more efficient, and in time allow us to push forward with even newer techniques and approaches to radiation delivery.
The events of the past week have made us feel humble and thankful to all of those who have worked so hard to complete this project. We saw our first patient in the department on Monday, August 23 and over the next month will complete the transition and move to the new space. We know the patients we’ll care for over the next several years will appreciate the thought and effort that went into the design and construction of the new department.
H. James Wallace, MD, is the medical director of Radiation Oncology at Fletcher Allen. His areas of expertise include genitourinary cancer, lymphoma, pediatric cancer and radiosurgery. He is also an associate professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.