NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

‘A New Chapter’

NIH Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony for New CC Wing

Wheeland speaks on stage. Other members of leadership look on
ORF Director Dan Wheeland speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

NIH marked the start of construction for the Clinical Center’s (CC) Surgery, Radiology and Laboratory Medicine wing at a groundbreaking event on May 16. 

Scheduled to open in 2029, the wing will house three departments—perioperative medicine, radiology and imaging sciences, and laboratory medicine—and National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) labs and patient service areas.

The event was held at the site of the new structure, near the building’s northwest corner at Convent Drive and Center Drive. Representatives from NIH, HHS and industry came together to celebrate what Acting NIH Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak called “a new chapter in the history of the CC, our country’s ‘House of Hope.’” 

An artistic illustration of the new building
A rendering of the new wing.

While on a day-long visit to NIH, HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm attended the ceremony. She toured labs and received briefings from leadership (see below).

For nearly 70 years, patients and scientists have worked together to advance NIH’s mission, Tabak noted. This partnership has resulted in a long list of scientific discoveries, including the first cure of a solid tumor with chemotherapy, gene therapy, use of AZT to treat AIDS and cancer immunotherapy.

Auchincloss and Bertagnolli talk to each other candidly
NIAID Acting Director Dr. Hugh Auchincloss (l) chats with NCI Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli before the ceremony.

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

“Research at the CC addresses the public health challenges facing the United States and the world,” said Tabak. “Modernizing our facilities will ensure that we can continue to provide high-quality patient care alongside cutting-edge biomedical research.”

Breaking ground on the new wing has been a long time coming, said NIH Deputy Director for Management Dr. Alfred Johnson. Thanks to the support of NIH and HHS leadership “we’re ready to hand off the baton from the planning and design phase to the construction phase.”  

The planning phase started in 2011 when former CC Director Dr. John Gallin spoke to the facilities working group about the hospital’s deteriorating infrastructure. Soon after, Dan Wheeland, director of the Office of Research Facilities, and his team began working with architecture firms to draw up plans for a hospital addition. 

The design team faced several constraints, recalled Wheeland. The departments of perioperative medicine and radiology and imaging sciences both need their own separate floors. However, there wasn’t enough land to do that. 

NIH leadership wear hard hats and hold golden shovels during the ceremony
Breaking ground are (from l) NIH Deputy Director for Management Dr. Alfred Johnson, NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research Dr. Nina Schor, ORF Director Dan Wheeland, Clinical Center CEO Dr. James Gilman, HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm, NIH Acting Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak, NIH Acting Principal Deputy Director Dr. Tara Schwetz; NIH Acting Associate Deputy Director Dr. Courtney Aklin and NCI Chief of Surgery Dr. Steven Rosenberg.

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

After many meetings, PowerPoint presentations and 30 designs, “we developed a concept that involves an addition and then a renovation,” Wheeland noted. The selected design allows the hospital to continue its operations as efficiently as possible and limits disruptions around campus roads and infrastructure. 

NCI labs, workspaces and offices currently located in the Clinical Research Center’s west laboratory wing will relocate to the upper floors of the new wing once it’s built, he said. The existing wing will be renovated so there is continuous space for the two departments. The new floors will run from the existing wing into the new addition. NHLBI’s Catheterization Laboratory will occupy a lower level. 

Many of the treatments studied in the CC have never been tried before, said Dr. Nina Schor, NIH deputy director for intramural research. “When you do that kind of research, you cannot always anticipate the outcomes and the effects of those treatments.” 

Locating the three departments in the same wing allows researchers to combine their expertise to study those effects. The arrangement allows a multidisciplinary team to treat patients over many years. 

The new addition will let the hospital carry out its mission, said CC CEO Dr. James Gilman. Right now, ORF staff “go above and beyond the call of duty” to keep a poorly designed part of the hospital running past its useful life. He acknowledged ORF’s Donna Phillips and George Edwards for their “extraordinary efforts” to keep an ailing infrastructure operational and fix what breaks down quickly.  

The department of laboratory medicine, for instance, regularly deals with flooding. Staff protect their equipment and continue to perform their duties even in poor conditions.  

An artistic rendering of new surgical wing from the North
Another rendering of new surgical wing

“While we’re proud of their perseverance and resilience, we do look forward to the time when the lab staff’s entire focus can be on the crucial tests that patients and their physicians order,” Gilman said.

Dr. Karen Frank, chief of the department of laboratory medicine, Dr. Elizabeth Jones, chief of the department of radiology and imaging sciences, and Dr. Andrew Mannes, chief of the department of perioperative medicine, helped raise support for the new addition. Gilman said they became “expert at describing the perils and pitfalls associated with current facilities objectively and without hyperbole while still supporting NIH science and providing safe care to the patients.” 

The operating room suites in the hospital are too small to take advantage of the newest surgical technologies, he noted. “Imaging capabilities—magnetic resonance imaging and computerized tomography—are vital to the successful completion of complex surgical procedures here at NIH.” However, they need lots of space. The new wing will provide that. 

Ever since he finished his training 48 years ago, NCI Chief of Surgery Dr. Steven Rosenberg has wanted to apply the best of modern science to patients in need. He’s been able to do that at the CC. 

“The Clinical Center is a hospital dedicated to providing the best of today’s medicines and committed to creating the medicine of tomorrow,” he concluded. “Today, we celebrate the origins of this important new addition and the impactful achievements that will occur within its walls.” 

HHS Deputy Secretary Visits

Palm talks with NIH leadership at a conference table
HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm (third from r) meets with NIH leadership in the CC’s Medical Board Room to discuss FEVS and HR.

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Clinical Center’s Surgery, Radiology and Laboratory Medicine wing.

“I’m super grateful to be here today and for being part of the HHS family,” she said. “We all work together to push forward our mission.”

Palm and Rhie speak to each other
Palm chats with 2023 Sammies finalist Dr. Arang Rhie.

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

The new addition illustrates the importance of funding information technology and facilities infrastructure for the public. When it opens, the new wing will be critical for the nation’s health and wellbeing, she said.  

Gilman points to where the new wing will be on the model as Palm looks on
CC CEO Dr. James Gilman gives a brief overview at the hospital’s model to show the SRLM wing site.

Photo:  Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

While here, Palm met with NIH finalists for the 2023 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medals and leadership from several institutes and centers. She also toured National Institute of Mental Health labs.

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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