BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With its two-story foyer, sun-filled waiting areas and plans for a landscaped village green, the 65,424-square-foot cancer center is a stately addition to Maumee’s Side Cut Crossings – but it’s the partnership between The Toledo Clinic and the Karmanos Cancer Institute that is most impressive.
“We now have a $30 million facility that will change lives,” said Maumee Mayor Rich Carr as he assisted in cutting the ribbon on the Karmanos Cancer Institute at The Toledo Clinic Cancer Center last week.
Many in the audience have personally been affected by cancer, said Carr, who said he has lost family members to the disease.
Tana Benford, vice president of development and membership for the Toledo Zoo, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia – a cancer of the blood – 20 years ago and has traveled to The Ohio State University James Cancer Institute for treatment. As she awaited the grand opening on April 14, Benford expressed optimism about the new Maumee facility, which will bring high-quality cancer care, including early access to clinical trials, closer to home.
“This new campus provides cancer care for many in their backyard and creates easy access for both The Toledo Clinic and Karmanos patients,” said Mike D’Eramo, chief administrative officer at The Toledo Clinic. That means no more traveling to Ann Arbor, Cleveland or Columbus, he said.
In Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, The Toledo Clinic is known as a multi-specialty group practice with 250 independent physicians and health care professionals practicing in 40 medical and surgical specialties in more than 60 locations. Physicians have medical staff privileges at all local hospitals and collaborate with Karmanos, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and The University of Toledo College of Medicine at UTMC.
Headquartered in Detroit, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Institute has 16 network sites and is recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as one of the best cancer centers in the nation. Karmanos is a leader in transformative cancer care, research and education, said Dr. Gerold Bepler, president and CEO of Karmanos Cancer Institute.
That NCI designation shows that Karmanos meets rigorous standards for research that is focused on developing new and better approaches for preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer, he explained.
“What do we do? We develop the next generation of treatments for patients with cancer,” Bepler said, explaining that 70 percent of all new drugs that go to market are tested at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. At any given time, 250 clinical trials are underway.
“Patients that come to us have treatments that are five to 10 years before the rest,” Bepler said. “I’m 100-percent convinced that we will ultimately prevail and will cure cancer.”
Providing patients with promising treatments close to home was the reason for Karmanos to collaborate with The Toledo Clinic to open a facility in Maumee, said Dr. Justin Klamerus, president of the Karmanos Cancer Hospital and Network.
“Ultimately, it comes down to the patient and their family members and providing the best support,” he said.
The design of the new cancer center was driven by input from patients and physicians, said Dr. Rex Mowat, medical director of oncology for The Toledo Clinic.
“The patient is No. 1. That’s why doctors show up every morning. The Toledo Clinic model is great because it works for patients,” he said, adding that so much of health care has “gone off the rails” due to a focus on big, beautiful facilities rather than the patient.
Mike D’Eramo, chief administrative officer of The Toledo Clinic, agreed. The goal is not to create a building of pretentiousness, but one that will make patients feel immediately at home while receiving personalized, professional care. He referred to his 85-year-old father, standing in the audience, who has survived prostate cancer for 35 years. When seeking care, his father would often walk 200 yards before he was even welcomed by a person. That won’t be the case in the new cancer center, he said.
Among the staff at the new center will be health care professionals from The Toledo Clinic like medical assistants Tayler Walland and Terrin Lubinski, who were greeting guests taking tours of the building last week. Another 150 new jobs are also being generated.
The facility includes 22 exam rooms, 24 chemotherapy chairs, a pharmacy for oral chemotherapy medications, laboratory and state-of-the-art imaging modalities. Seven of the 22 suites are located in the modern radiation oncology unit, operated by the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
In addition to the Karmanos clinical research program, the new center will provide genetic counseling, in-office treatments for hematology and oncology problems, cold cap therapy for prevention of hair loss during cancer treatment, support groups for patients and families, and foundation support for patients requiring assistance.
The partnership between The Toledo Clinic and Karmanos Cancer Institute was prompted by a relationship already in place between Karmanos and McLaren, which purchased St. Luke’s Hospital, Carr explained. Both The Toledo Clinic and Karmanos expressed a desire to build a cancer center in the area, but as Carr explained, there aren’t enough doctors to staff two high-caliber centers.
“They were willing to put their egos aside for the benefit of those who have cancer and decided to combine their efforts,” he said.
In the meantime, developer Joe Swolsky had begun assembling land along the Anthony Wayne Trail between Ford Street and Monclova Road with the intention of building a Kroger and senior housing 20 years ago. With the purchase of land from the railroad complete, the site was cleared and put into a Tax Increment Financing agreement to help pay for infrastructure. Swolsky agreed to not ask for a tax abatement from Maumee City Schools – one reason why Carr thanked him during the grand opening. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority also provided a capital lease option that allowed state and local tax savings of $500,000, added Craig Teamer, manager of finance and special projects for the Port Authority.
With a senior housing community on-site, the 58-acre Side Cut Crossings will eventually grow to include restaurants, a hotel and retail operations.
Maumee Chamber of Commerce executive director Kristin Meyer expects that Side Cut Crossings and the Maumee area will benefit from the addition of the cancer clinic and ancillary businesses.
“We’re thrilled for this type of cancer institute to be in Maumee. It’s great for anyone who comes for treatment to be able to go sleep in their own bed and not to have to drive to Ann Arbor or Cleveland,” she said. “This will be a medical hub in the community.”