On July 9, 1990, The James at last opened for business. In a modest ceremony, the first patient was wheeled into the facility from adjoining University Hospitals by a small group that included Dr. James, who cordially welcomed the patient upon his arrival in the 10th floor nursing unit. The hospital had 17 patients on its first day.
Although the aging Dr. James retired from seeing patients that same year, he had an office at the hospital and maintained an everyday presence in an emeritus role while also assisting the Development Department in fund-raising efforts until 1996, when failing health prevented his return.
"I still like to get up early and go to the hospital," he told an interviewer in 1995. "I see people whom I have treated or friends who are now patients of other doctors. I enjoy touring the hospital and discussing our research programs. I try to keep updated on new ideas."
He considered the hospital to be the greatest accomplishment of his career, but he derived equal satisfaction from caring for patients, especially when they were cured and could resume productive lives.
Even in retirement, Dr. James never stopped dreaming.
"My personal goal for this hospital is that it become the number one cancer hospital in the country," he once said. "This would mean we can achieve the best results in treatment because we have the most advanced methods."
He occasionally gave voice to his most sublime dream of all: the global eradication of cancer. "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."
His life expired before that day arrived, but his spirit remains among all who carry on his legacy at The James on behalf of cancer patients everywhere.
"Dr. James wanted this hospital to be a leader in the eradication of cancer, and everyone here is working toward that end," said Michael Caligiuri, MD, chief executive officer of The James. "His vision of a cancer-free world fuels our daily efforts. He has entrusted us with his dream, and we won't rest until we see it through."