Allegheny Health Network ‘tops off’ new North Side cancer institute
Before iron workers hoisted the last steel beam into place Thursday at Allegheny General Hospital’s $80 million cancer institute set to open in spring 2020, Lydia Mitchell made sure her name was on it.
The second-grade reading teacher at Allegheny Traditional Academy in Pittsburgh’s North Side is being treated at AGH for breast cancer and said the new facility would help save lives.
“Health is so important, and people take it for granted,” Mitchell said. “Just having something this magnificent in the heart of the North Side is great to me.”
Mitchell, of Pittsburgh’s Brighton Heights, neighborhood was among a throng of hospital staffers, cancer survivors and community leaders assembled at the hospital for a ceremonial “topping off” ceremony. All were encouraged to sign the last structural beam that will support the four-story building along East North Avenue. One side of the beam was filled with the names of cancer survivors, doctors, nurses and loved ones lost to the disease.
The institute will serve as a hub for Allegheny Health Network’s five community cancer centers where patients can receive treatment closer to home.
“Once it’s identified, the next step is to define it. What is it? How far along is it? What’s it treatable with? What’s the latest treatment? Is it going to work with this patient? Are there other medical problems,” Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, president of Allegheny General Hospital, said of cancer. “This becomes the center of all that so the data is collected analyzed, and then you get the right treatment.”
The institute will also have connections to experts at other top facilities, including Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Patients in the Pittsburgh area will have remote access to Kimmel Center doctors, research and clinical trials, according to Dr. Kenneth J. Cohen, the director of strategic planning and integration at Johns Hopkins and not related to AGH’s Jeffrey Cohen. Most importantly, he said, the Kimmel Center can analyze a cancer tumor through a process known as cancer genomics to find out what caused it and how to treat it.
“Our mission, and the mission of all of the people here, is really to do the same thing, which is to say, can we get the right patients to the right place to give the right therapies at the right time and to use the best science to try and advance the care and the likelihood of being able to successfully treat patients,” Kenneth Cohen said.
The cancer institute will be located between AGH’s South Tower and its Sandusky Street parking garage. Plans call for a blue-faceted glass facade and atrium with waiting areas, examination rooms and treatment areas. Valet parking will be available and navigators inside the institute will help guide patients through the process.
It’s part of a $300 million investment in cancer services by Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network that includes the community cancer centers. Centers have been completed in Monroeville, Butler and Center, Beaver County, with two more set to open later this year in Erie and Hempfield.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .