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|The 'House of Hope' Opens|
Hatfield Dedicates New Hospital, Urges Major New Study
By Rich McManusPhotos by Bill and Ernie Branson
On the Front Page...
Nearly 7 years after he visited NIH to break ground for a new hospital to be named after him, former Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR) returned on Sept. 22 for the dedication of the Clinical Research Center, which he called a "human mosaic" embodying the vision, skills and perseverance of many, resulting in a "new community of hope." He also called for a major new national initiative on genes, environment and health, which would enroll up to 1 million Americans from all population groups and all parts of the country, for the benefit of future generations.
"There is no medicine like hope," he told a crowd of hundreds who had assembled in the CRC's towering atrium for a ceremony that featured senators, congressmen, Secretary Tommy Thompson and a host of other dignitaries including three former NIH directors Drs. James Wyngaarden (1982-1989), Bernadine Healy (1991-1993) and Harold Varmus (1993-1999). "My prayer today is that God grant you an abundance of patience, perseverance and cures," Hatfield concluded as a standing ovation erupted, to which he responded with modest blown kisses.
Held on the vernal equinox, when there is as much daylight as darkness, the event looked both to a glorious past, during which the original Clinical Center toted up 50 years worth of medical achievements, and to a future that promises at least as many breakthroughs as the first half-century, said NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. "This day marks a new commitment to medical research," he said.
"Every day I get calls and emails from patients telling me how the Clinical Center has changed their lives," he said. "We have no greater duty than to bring the benefits of our discoveries to patients. This hospital is the physical embodiment of how we will do it."
He acknowledged that "many times, the Clinical Center is the hospital of last resort." But just as the hospital played a key role in identifying HIV/AIDS in the past, future breakthroughs against as-yet unknown enemies as sure to occur at the CRC, he assured. He predicted that "new vaccines against West Nile virus, and AIDS, and even cancer will be developed here," and credited the broad constituency it takes to make a new hospital a reality, including builders, designers, scientists and politicians such as Hatfield, whom he called "the cornerstone" of the effort to build the CRC. "This building could not have been here without your vision and support...you carried the ball across the goal line," he said, to loud applause. "This is a unique hospital there's nothing else like it out there."
As big a day as it was for Hatfield, his wife Antoinette, their four children and numerous grandchildren, the dedication was also a milestone for CC director Dr. John Gallin, who told the audience that he had come to the CC in 1971 when he was 28, and the building was only 18. "Back then I thought to myself, 'I can't imagine a better place to work.' Thirty-three years later, I still feel the same way."
Calling the CRC "a terrific home for clinical research," he reviewed its many assets, from an interfaith chapel on the top floor to a K-12 school on the first, but kept the emphasis on its people, chiefly its patients. "We realize that our patient victories have been achieved one patient at a time," he said before introducing several successfully treated individuals, and the physicians who cared for them.
He also acknowledged that "clinical research is serious business. The outcomes are not always happy." He told the story of Ernestine "Cie Cie" Smith, a long-term patient of his who always presented Gallin with a card on Father's Day. Though she died suddenly while on a protocol, "she gave everything she could to fight her disease," Gallin said. "She was a true partner in our mission." Smith's mother and sister were on hand to witness the tribute.
Offering powerful confirmation of the value of cutting-edge clinical research was Susan Lowell Butler, who came to NIH with advanced ovarian and breast cancer, and was given a 20 percent chance of living another 2 years; that was almost a decade ago. "This is the ultimate hospital," she declared. "This is the place of last, best hope...the full panorama of life and death can be seen at the Clinical Center. It really is the family of man here...it is real life here in the house of hope."
She concluded, "This is a magical place where science and compassion come together to save our lives," and received a standing ovation.
A variety of legislators then paid tribute to both the project and its namesake. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), chair of the House appropriations committee, called the CRC "a place where good enough is not good enough, and a place where illness and disease will meet their match." He said the CRC is to health what the Pentagon is to defense, what the New York Stock Exchange is to finance, and what the Capitol is to government. Before excusing himself for a vote back at the Capitol, he presented Zerhouni with a flag that had flown that morning atop the Capitol Bldg.
Hatfield said the occasion ranked right up there with his wedding day and the births of his four children, all of whom were on hand.
"When I look at the CRC, I see the human mosaic it embodies," he began. "I see craftsmen, advocates, scientists, researchers, mentors, patients and their loving families...What a privilege and a blessing to be part of this company of friends." But he didn't linger long on sentiment. He cited the need for progress against top killers stroke, heart attack and cancer, then added to their ranks SARS, monkeypox, West Nile virus, Lyme disease. "The enemy is constantly changing its face," he warned. "There is always a need and a benefit for more research." He quoted his old friend Mary Lasker, "If you think research is expensive, try disease."
Hatfield called especially for more attention to the 6,000 rare or "orphan" diseases affecting some 25 million Americans, but whose sufferers have not yet organized advocacy groups or gained research funding. He asked that the windfall of new knowledge from the Human Genome Project be directed towards cures "for the common diseases that fill up our hospitals and clinics today." The major initiative on genes, environment and health could be to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and asthma what the Framingham Heart Study has been to cardiac disease, he argued. "Our research tools are about to become much more powerful," he asserted. "With this facility, we have created a new community of hope."
The morning's final speaker, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, said he can't walk into an NIH building without feeling "rejuvenated, enthused, and impressed," and predicted great accomplishments for the entire world as a result of the new hospital. Leavening the stress of election-year politicking, he joked, "Isn't it nice to be in a place where Democrats and Republicans say nice things to one another?" then went on to say the nicest things about NIH's leadership and employees, even asking all NIH'ers on hand to rise and be recognized. Thompson also read greetings from President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, who said the CRC "will bring hope and healing to many," and that those who serve there "represent the best of our nation."
The 95-minute ceremony concluded with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, and the unveiling of both a commemorative plaque and inscription honoring Hatfield. Attendees then enjoyed a reception in the lobby and employees were free to roam the building on self-guided tours. The CRC will welcome its first patients on Saturday, Dec. 4.
To view a videocast of the Sept. 22 dedication, visit www.videocast.nih.gov.
New Hospital Shows Off Its Flexibility
When is a building a cathedral, a barracks, a jazz club, a movie theater, a restaurant and an auditorium, all on the same day? Perhaps hinting at its much-touted flexibility, the new Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center adapted itself easily to all of these functions during the dedication held Sept. 22.
NIH'ers who watched the ceremony on video were probably certain that the broadcast originated from some kind of auditorium, like Masur or Natcher. That's how easily the first-floor atrium can be converted into a sort of main hall just add scads of folding chairs and a stage.
Even though the atrium rises 9 stories (two stories above the seventh, and top, floor), the sound in the space was clear, and guests enjoyed not only reverberation-free speeches, but also the musical selections of both the U.S. Marine Band Brass Quintet and the Walt Whitman High School Jazz Ensemble.
The Marine Band "The President's Own" played a medley of each armed service's theme song as a color guard stood by; that brought to mind the barracks idea. As guests arrived in the cavernous space before the ceremony, a special movie about the CRC was screened, including interviews with NIH doctors and patients. That gave the room a movie-hall feel. The invocation by Dr. O. Ray Fitzgerald, and the passionate testimony of former patient Susan Lowell Butler could have issued from the pulpit of a great cathedral. And when guests dispersed to enjoy the extensive buffet tables, the room could have been one of the showcase downtown restaurants. Not a bad debut for a hospital expected to contort itself to the public health needs of the next half century, and beyond.
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