‘A New Chapter’
NIH Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony for New CC Wing
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.’”
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”