Cancer CARE

While some of us may have started an exercise regimen, hit a Netflix binging record, or invented banana bread recipes during the COVID-19 crisis, these accomplishments don’t quite live up to the standard set by the Radiation Oncology team — they opened a new practice location.

The new Penn Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center opened its doors on May 8. Located next to the PAC building and managed by medical director Manuj Agarwal, MD, and the CPUP department of Radiation Oncology, the center serves as a long-anticipated addition to PPMC’s cancer program. As a ‘one-stop-shop,’ the suite offers a spectrum of oncology, radiation, and infusion services. (The second floor is also being outfitted with four new operating rooms — stay tuned!)

“Occurrences of cancer unfortunately continue to grow, so it was critical for us to have a robust program that meets the unique needs of our patients,” said Greta Gilbode, MBA, associate executive director of Service Line Operations. “As patients start to return to the hospital, it’s vital that they can safely and conveniently access outstanding care. Now, for the first time, we can say Presbyterian truly has a comprehensive cancer center.”

Construction finished earlier this year, but as the finish line came into sight, so did COVID-19. The state paused all regulatory approvals, bringing the process to a sudden halt. Throughout the crisis, some Penn Medicine cancer patients had the opportunity to receive care at home, but for others, in-person treatment was necessary. It quickly became evident that the small waiting room in PPMC’s old cancer center was not conducive for social distancing; plus, patients who required Radiation Oncology services still needed to be shuttled to HUP, further increasing their risk of exposure. Citing the urgent need to move patients into the completed open space to maximize patient safety, Presby took advantage of emergency waivers from the state and opened the center. The cancer center has received nothing but positive feedback so far from patients and staff alike, with many praising the fresh, patient-centered layout, and the beautiful artwork.

“I’m extremely proud that we pulled this off in the middle of a global pandemic,” Gilbode said. “Though we unfortunately couldn’t have an official ribbon-cutting or open house, we can still celebrate what a total team effort this was. We couldn’t have done this without our construction and Facilities teams, our Radiation Oncology and Hematology Oncology staff, and our regulatory partners.”

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