Bluestein Helps Build Winship Cancer Treatment Center
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Bluestein Helps Build Winship Cancer Treatment Center

Sheryl Bluestein, vice president of operations for Emory Healthcare, discusses the new building, which comes at a time when Americans are spending more on cancer treatments and getting less for it than other nations.

The new 17-story Winship Cancer Institute in Midtown is aimed at providing more efficient cancer care.
The new 17-story Winship Cancer Institute in Midtown is aimed at providing more efficient cancer care.

Emory Healthcare has opened a new, state-of-the-art cancer treatment center that aims to provide a more efficient standard of treatment for both patients and outpatients at Emory’s Midtown Hospital. The Winship Cancer Institute, which adds 450,000 square feet of clinical space at a cost of over $440 million, is the result of more than a decade of planning.

The 17-story structure is built around what Emory officials call five “care communities,” which group a comprehensive series of treatment options around each of the communities.

For Sheryl Bluestein, vice president of operations for Emory Healthcare, the new treatment center represents over 13 years of planning.

“Back in 2010, we began to realize that in order to grow infusion and/or radiation and really be able to see more patients, we needed more space. Ultimately, it took until 2018, when we received a Woodruff Foundation grant for $200 million, that we were able to complete the planning on this new building.”

Sheryl Bluestein, vice president of operations for Emory Healthcare, worked on plans for the new building for more than 13 years.

Bluestein, who grew up in East Cobb as a member of Congregation Etz Chaim, has had considerable experience with the effect that cancer can have on family life. She lost her father to brain cancer in 2007, and, in 2018, her stepfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The completion of the project has come with a considerable degree of personal satisfaction for Bluestein.

“It was one of those projects that I was really able to understand; the mission and the vision and the impact that it would have. I’m so fortunate that I got to work on this project. Like I told my boss when the planning kept me up at night, this is something that will live on after I’m gone. So, it was a really amazing opportunity for me.”

The new facility represents what’s seen as a more effective model for detecting and diagnosing a variety of life-threatening cancers. It is estimated that of the more than 61,000 patients in Georgia who will be diagnosed with cancer this year, a quarter of them will receive some of their treatment at one of Winship’s locations in metropolitan Atlanta.

Many of them will be seen at the new facility in the care communities that have been brought together in the new facility. The executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Dr. Suresh Ramalingam, describes the way treatment has been brought together as opening a new era in the delivery of cancer therapies.

“We’re talking about multidisciplinary care for a specific cancer that is brought about by a team of experts that specialize just in that particular type of cancer. And for all those specialists to see the patient in the patient’s room without the patient having to go from one office to another, one building to another, is a functionality that doesn’t exist in most parts of the country.”

The new building is seen as a major step forward for the Winship Cancer Insitute which has just earned a renewal of its designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center from the National Cancer Institute. It is the only facility in Georgia to earn that prestigious designation.

Emory University president Gregory Fenves was full of praise for the new building.

“The Emory mission is to serve humanity, and this extraordinary new facility embodies our highest ideals and aspirations. Cancer affects nearly every family, and Emory is bringing world-class medical expertise into this center so that patients get life-changing care and cures,” he said.

The U.S. spends twice as much per capita than other countries on healthcare but has a higher mortality rate than at least nine other nations.

According to a recent study by Cary Gross, director of the National Clinical Scholars Program at Yale University, cancer treatments in the United States are estimated to cost more than $200 billion per year. That’s at least four times more than treatments for other common health conditions. That’s also twice the amount that other high-income countries spend on cancer on a per capital basis.

The financial burden on patients is considerable. According to the Mesothelioma Center, 63 percent of cancer patients face financial hardships after their diagnosis. The lifetime costs of lung cancer treatments, for example, can cost an estimated $282,000 per patient. Eleven of the 12 FDA-approved cancer drugs, according to the Mesothelioma Center, are priced above $100,000 annually.

Despite all the spending in this country, Australia, Finland, Japan, Korea, and Switzerland have lower cancer mortality rates than the U.S. does. After adjusting for smoking rates, Luxembourg, Norway, and Spain also had lower mortality rates than the U.S.

Bluestein, who oversees the new building, is hopeful that this new approach will pay off.

“We are making very good progress in improving outcomes and providing hope for patients with cancer. We have better treatment options available. We have better tools to diagnose cancer early. And that has called for our care models to be continually updated.”

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