“All cancer will eventually be wiped out; there’s no doubt about that. I don’t know how long it will take, but I’m sure the day is coming.”
Those words, spoken more than two decades ago by Arthur G. James, MD, resounded again via video playback on July 27 at the 20th anniversary celebration of Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
“Dr. James’ words unite our cancer program’s past with its future,” said James CEO Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, when addressing the hundreds who turned out for the celebration beneath a large tent on the Rhodes Hall plaza. “Whether your work is mostly in research, education, patient care or administration, we all share the goal that Dr. James envisioned to create a cancer-free world, one patient, one discovery at a time.”
Caligiuri said the 1990 video was played especially for those who never had a chance to meet Dr. James, a surgical oncologist who lived to see his dream of establishing a cancer hospital in central Ohio fulfilled before his death in 2001.
“I think this video is amazing because it shows how true we have stayed to the original vision that created our hospital,” Caligiuri said. “His words ring as true today as they did when they were recorded.”
He noted that the day’s festivities marked the beginning of an extended celebration for Ohio State’s cancer program.
“Today we celebrate 20 years of cancer care at The James. In April 2011, we will celebrate 35 years of cancer research at Ohio State on the anniversary of our original designation by the National Cancer Institute as a comprehensive cancer center (CCC),” said Caligiuri, who also directs the CCC.
Pointing to a commemorative pin bearing a “35-20-1” icon that all OSUCCC-James staff will receive to wear over the next several months, Caligiuri added: “35-20-1” is not the combination to a lock, but a combination that is unlocking the future of cancer research and care: 35 years of the CCC, 20 years of The James, bound together by one shared vision to create a cancer-free world.”
Caligiuri was one of several speakers at the celebration, which included video presentations, a Powerpoint timeline of historical photos, lunch and commemorative cake. Also speaking were:
Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, JD, EdD; Steven Gabbe, MD, CEO of Ohio State’s Medical Center; David Schuller, MD, vice president for medical center expansion and outreach, and CEO emeritus of The James; James Foundation Board of Trustees President David Ryan; James Board of Trustees President Bob Massie; James Chief Nursing Officer Susan Brown, RN, MS; Ohio State Vice President for Human Resources Larry Lewellen; and David James, Dr. James’ elder son.
“I want you to know how proud my dad would be if he were here today to help celebrate this major milestone,” James said. “He was a man of honor who always did his best and followed his dream. He had a lot of setbacks, but he never lost hope, and he lived to see this cancer hospital come into being. I believe his hope for a cancer-free world is still alive today because of all of you.”
James also said he has strong evidence that his father would have been a staunch supporter of Pelotonia, an annual grassroots bicycle tour that debuted in 2009 to raise money for cancer research at the OSUCCC-James. Summoning Caligiuri to the stage, James gave him, as a gift to the hospital, an old photo he recently found showing Dr. James and his wife Mildred seated on a tandem bicycle.
Gabbe congratulated everyone at the OSUCCC-James for contributing to the growth that the cancer program has enjoyed in its first 20 years in patient volume (it had only 17 patients on its first day), research dollars, locations throughout the region, and national reputation.
“Your work over these two decades has been astounding,” Gabbe said, adding that the program will grow even more over the next 20 years through ProjectONE, the University’s largest-ever expansion initiative, which will include a new cancer hospital targeted for completion in 2014.
“It is only at academic medical centers that education and research can dramatically improve patient care,” he said. “ProjectONE has been designed with this in mind. Patient care areas will be linked to research labs where the latest therapies are developed. Staff and physicians will teach there as well, preparing our next generation of physicians and health professionals to deliver a new model of health care that we know as P4 medicine: care that is predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory. The new hospital will embrace the entire power of this University.”
Schuller, who was appointed to direct the new James Cancer Hospital in March 1988 – two years before it opened – pointed out that it “started with a staff of one, and you’re looking at him.” He later hired Dennis Smith as director of administration. “Dennis and I were the Cheech and Chong of the cancer hospital for many years.” Smith retired in 2009 but attended the celebration.
Schuller said research-based cancer diagnosis and care have come a long way since The James opened, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the “warmth, compassion and hope that we have always given to our patients.”
He also said the hospital and all that it offers would not be possible without strong community support such has been exemplified by leaders like Richard Solove, a businessman, philanthropist and longtime friend of Dr. James who in 1999 gave $20 million to the hospital’s Threshold of Discovery campaign to raise money for human cancer genetics research. Solove also attended the celebration. He did not speak, but the audience watched a 1999 video in which he described his gift as “one of the most gratifying decisions I’ve made in my life.”
Gee said the common thread of the cancer program is that everyone who encounters it “receives the same compassionate care. This is all about human caring. What we’re celebrating today is 20 years of nobility and a great future ahead as we pursue a real opportunity to one day have a cancer-free society.”