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Ground Broken for New Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge

By Dianne Needham

Photos by Ernie Branson

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Oct. 29 for the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge, a home-away-from-home for the families and caretakers of Clinical Center patients. The event, which occurred at the site where the lodge will be situated (near the corner of Center and Convent Drives), formally signals the project's start.

The rain-soaked day did not deter a large crowd that included patients and NIH officials from attending. CC director Dr. John Gallin served as master of ceremonies. Speakers included NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni; Jeffrey Keil, president of Ellesse, LLC, representing the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation; Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research; Amy McGuire, executive director, Foundation for the NIH; and Susan Lowell Butler, member, CC patient advisory group.

Gallin said the Family Lodge has been much anticipated. "The concept for such a facility started in the early 1990s when volunteers from the Clinical Center's nursing, housekeeping and social work departments launched this idea purely on a voluntary basis because they recognized the deep need to provide patients' families with a place of respite," he said. The CC is the largest hospital in the world totally dedicated to clinical research. "The lodge will complement the work we do by providing quiet seclusion and supportive fellowship to families and patients participating in our research protocols. I predict the lodge will become a model for other institutions that conduct clinical research."

Zerhouni said that he could not help but celebrate the fact that the lodge "embodies the connection of humanity and science and the connection of government and enlightened citizenry."

Breaking ground for the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge are (from l) Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research; Dr. Elias Zerhouni, NIH director; Dr. John Gallin, director, Clinical Center; Jeffrey Keil, president, Ellesse LLC; Amy McGuire, executive director, Foundation for the NIH; and Susan Lowell Butler, member, Clinical Center patient advisory group. The groundbreaking ceremony was held indoors due to inclement weather.

He is impressed that NIH, a federal agency, is receiving the highest mark of recognition from philanthropy. "It is because of the groundbreaking research that the Clinical Center has done over the years that we're now able to be at such a groundbreaking ceremony. Much of the research mentioned by Dr. Gallin was only possible here at NIH. So I'm asking you today, would you ever imagine a foundation funding something for the IRS? I think only NIH can attract that sort of recognition because philanthropy by definition is the concept of loving another," he said.

FNIH's McGuire echoed Zerhouni's sentiment. "The foundation has learned a great deal by conducting this project. We feel the Safra Lodge is really a symbol — a symbol of what Congress intended the foundation to do when they authorized and created us. The Safra Lodge is a public/private partnership that will help the whole NIH family, the patients, their families and ultimately the American public."

Noting that the first-ever treatment of cancer using chemotherapy took place at the CC, Gottesman spoke poignantly of the courageous acts of patients. "Think about the very first patient who had serious cancer who was asked to be part of this clinical trial. He was asked to take a toxic chemical at risk of life to find out whether this would be a treatment that would help other patients in the future. In no way is this different from the bravery shown by firemen who run into a burning building or John Glenn in his first orbital maneuver or Neil Armstrong when he stepped out on the surface of the moon. These patients and many, many others have come to NIH to offer to put their lives on the line, to advance human knowledge, to improve public health." The Family Lodge, he said, is a very small payback to these "amazing patients."

Celebrating the ground-breaking are (from l) Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, NIAID; Gottesman, Gallin and Zerhouni.

Butler, an NIH patient as well as advisory group member, has intimate knowledge about such courage. "I was treated for simultaneous breast and ovarian cancer here in 1995 on a clinical trial. I did that because I'm in a hurry. You know if you have them both at once, you can kind of move along more quickly. When I tell you I'm glad to be here, I'm not just using a tired old phrase," she said.

She talked about how being a caregiver is sometimes harder than being a patient. She believes the lodge will be a place where caregivers can go not only for their own rest and relaxation, but also to talk with other people in the same predicament. "Anything that helps ease their suffering and distress is quite a miracle," she said.

The lodge may turn out to be just that. Construction should begin in earnest early next year, with completion forecast for the summer of 2004. For more information call Jan Weymouth, 496-2925 or visit http://www.cc.nih.gov/ccc/family/lodge.html.


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