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A healing environment 

New cancer institute better for patients, researchers

The Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has only been open since August, but even in that short time, patients and researchers are seeing the advantages the building offers in the fight against cancer.

"So far, virtually all have welcomed it with open arms," says institute director Peter Emmanuel, M.D. "Lots of people have complimented us on the openness of the building. They certainly like the reception area much better. The full openness won't be realized until next summer when we complete renovations to the first floor of the Walker Tower and then both buildings will work together as one."

And spacious it is. The new center spans 300,000 square feet and provides much-needed space for programs like the comprehensive lung cancer, leukemia and lymphoma programs.

Susan Van Dusen, a spokesperson for the hospital says the building was designed with comfort in mind.

"We have outdoor areas for patients who are receiving therapy," Van Dusen says. "They can go walk outside. There are a lot of windows where before there weren't any. You have so much anxiety when you have cancer, so just to be able to be in some place that's comforting is psychologically beneficial."

Emmanuel thinks the new building, with lots of additional space for research and collaboration, will be beneficial not only for doctors and researchers, but to cancer research in general.

"These research facilities are based on an open laboratory format," Emmanuel says. "That's the current trend in most of the new research labs built across the nation: to increase collaboration and discussion amongst scientists working across different areas and different cancers, to allow them to bounce ideas off each other. The same goes with the whole openness of the building. It encourages people to compare notes and collaborate whether they be patients, families, doctors, researchers, whatever." The building also creates a positive environment for, well, the environment. There are a number of green features like lighting fixtures that automatically adjust to sunlight, solar-shaded glass and an energy recovery ventilation system. And there's more to come. The second phase of renovation will be complete next summer.

"We wanted to provide amenities for our patients and lots of facilities for our researchers," Emmanuel says. "We're certainly hopeful it will pay dividends."

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