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A Night at the Rainbow Room®

The Transformation of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor's Cancer Center

St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor's Cancer Center

St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor's Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Center was built nearly 25 years ago – a state-of-the-art facility at the time, it was one of the first Cancer Centers to offer comprehensive care.  Since opening, our patient volumes have more than tripled to 3,400 per year.  In addition, we have redefined comprehensive care by adding treatment options and technologies that did not exist when we opened and by developing innovative programs and embracing current philosophies of care.  We believe excellence means continuously building upon our successful program to make care better for our patients and their families and to improve outcomes.

We are asking the community to join us in transforming St. Joe's Cancer Center by supporting our vital renovation and expansion project – your commitment will meet the needs of patients today and be an investment in the future of cancer care.

Need: Thousands of patients turn to St. Joe’s each year for quality compassionate care and the number continues to grow.  Patients rely on us for a healing environment, however, the ways we provide care have changed during the past 25 years, including the addition of vital programs, equipment and staff, reaching far beyond what St. Joe’s Cancer Center was built to accommodate.

Goal: To build a Cancer Center that supports the way we provide cancer care today and with a design that keeps our patients and their families in mind.  Engaging physician and clinician leaders who understand our patients’ needs first hand as well as project leaders who are certified in Six Sigma and Lean Operations to lead process change to meet our goals.

Vision: The result will be a one-of-a-kind Cancer Center that supports proactive leaders and staff dedicated to improving patient outcomes by providing patient-centered and value-added care – aligned with our strategic aim for Better Health, Better Care & Lower Costs.  All to meet our patients' needs for the best in prevention, treatment and care close to home.

"As our partner, you will join our relentless drive to reach further in promoting early detection, delivering life-saving treatments, making groundbreaking research discoveries, and giving every patient hope and healing."

- Philip J. Stella, MD, Medical Director of Oncology Services

Quantifying the Changes Over 20 Years

  • Chemotherapy: from 5 to 9 Hematology Oncology Specialists plus 5 Physicians Assistants
  • Radiation Oncology: from 3 to 6 Radiation Oncology Specialists plus 2 Physicians Assistants
  • Research: from 3 staff members to 27 staff members
  • Genetic Counseling: added 2 Counselors
  • Oncology Nurse Navigator: added 8 Nurse Navigators
  • Financial Counseling: added 10 counselors dedicated to oncology
  • Spiritual Care: added one dedicated Oncology Chaplain and 2 team members
  • Social Work: from 2 to 4 Oncology Social Workers
  • Nutrition: added an outpatient nutritional support program
  • Community Outreach: developed a very active community outreach program
  • Pharmacy: added a research pharmacist
  • Palliative Care:  have developed a palliative care program and have expanded to the outpatient setting with a team of 5 physicians and advanced practice practitioners.

Quantifying the Need - Trends in Cancer

  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and Michigan
  • In 2010, an estimated 56,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed in Michigan
  • St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor treats 3,400 patients annually who rely on a full spectrum of care – advanced medicine, comprehensive programs and hope
  • Forecasts show a significant increase in the number of individuals 65+ being diagnosed with cancer in Washtenaw County and the surrounding area over the next several years*

* The Southeast Michigan Council of Government Data

Transformation of St. Joe’s Cancer Center - Project Overview
Patients depend on St. Joe's for advanced treatments including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, brachytherapy and surgery; for patient-centered programs that help to heal the whole person, body, mind and spirit; and to be a trusted partner in their fight against cancer.

Building a Healing Environment for Advanced Treatments and Diagnosis

Since building the Cancer Center, the philosophy of care for patients needing chemotherapy has changed dramatically.  Once considered the gold standard,
St. Joe’s Infusion Center was built in a “community style” and features one room with 22 reclining infusion chairs set up in a half circle as well as four private infusion rooms for those patients whose conditions are more acute. 

By redesigning our Infusion Center to offer 22 private treatment bays, we will add privacy, promote dignity and encourage loved ones to join in the care process – all vital to making care better for patients who often require daily or weekly visits, several hours each, for weeks or months or sometimes longer.  The new design and added amenities such as private conference rooms, courtyard views, televisions, Internet access, and a warm updated décor will enhance the advanced, compassionate care that patients currently receive and aid in recovery and comfort. 

In addition, the new Cancer Center will be designed to reflect the commitment of our highly trained specialists who provide the latest treatments and minimally invasive options beyond chemotherapy.  Patients rely on St. Joe’s for:

St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor's Cancer Center

  • Revolutionary radiation oncology – St. Joe’s was the first in Michigan to offer the precision of CyberKnife® radiosurgery. The program also includes treatment planning with a CT simulator and use of the linear accelerator with RapidArcÒ technology. 
  • Minimally invasive options with daVinci® robotic surgery – St. Joe’s is the 3rd busiest robotic surgery program in the nation.   
  • Recognized diagnostic services including a breast cancer center of excellence with all digital mammography, lung cancer screening center of excellence, and prostate imaging center
  • Oncology Surgery Specialists who lead renowned programs in thoracic, breast, lung, gastrointestinal, head/neck, prostate, and gynecological procedures. 
“The courage that my cancer patients have inspires me each day."

-Walter M. Sahijdak, MD, SJMHS Medical Director of Radiation Oncology.

Pioneering Better Care and Life-saving Advancements

Research is vital to making these advanced treatments possible – St. Joe’s is a leader in national research trials as one of only 34 National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Programs (NCORP). 

Led by Philip J. Stella, MD, the NCORP program at St. Joe’s was the only program in the nation to receive the highest ranking and a perfect score in every category as part of the National Cancer Institute’s stringent proposal process, earning our Cancer Center the largest grant award among NCORP designees and the leverage to make the biggest difference for our patients.  St. Joe’s NCORP program, known as the Michigan Cancer Research Consortium, is made up of 14 cancer centers, extending the support and benefits of our expertise to patients and staff at locations throughout southeast and central Michigan.

The success of St. Joe's research program throughout the past 25 years has led to dramatic growth in the number of trials we offer and the number of patients we serve resulting in the need to increase staff from three to 27. 

Expanding our current second floor space where the research program is currently run will allow continued progress and support the intense care and monitoring of nearly 400 patients each year who participate in research trials that improve care, save lives, allow groundbreaking results, and are vital to the future of cancer care.

Redefining Comprehensive Care

We know that facing cancer is one of the toughest journeys a person will ever face.  In addition to advanced treatments, St. Joe’s comprehensive services include people-centered programs that focus on timeliness, efficiency, convenience, comfort and compassion all to improve the patient experience, wellness and outcomes. 

10 years ago, setting St. Joe’s apart once again, we began to develop our Specialty Clinics, now serving patients diagnosed with breast, lung, gastrointestinal, prostate and gynecological cancers.  Patients benefit from a seamless personalized care plan provided at one appointment with a multidisciplinary team of hematology oncology and radiation oncology physicians, surgeons, nurses, social workers and financial counselors. This team includes a nurse manager for chemotherapy who closely follows a patient through the treatment process to monitor levels of toxicity and manage side effects to help reduce inpatient episodes and improve the patient’s comfort and stamina.

To further meet patients’ needs, in 2005, St. Joe's became one of the first cancer centers in Michigan to develop an Oncology Nurse Navigator program.  Patients rely on one of our eight certified Nurse Navigators for knowledge, compassion and a personal guide through the healing process from the moment they are diagnosed through survivorship. Patients often need assistance scheduling appointments, learning about cancer and its treatments, finding transportation to treatments, or just need the comfort of a friendly face.

Current construction plans include adding an upper level space for added Specialty Clinics, outpatient palliative care and psychosocial consulting that are specifically designed to support the expert teams needed to provide these innovative programs -- programs that transform the patient experience and offer immediate and lasting benefits.  And, the expansion of the second floor space with added exam rooms, offices and conference space will enhance the Nurse Navigator program, allowing us to meet the needs of patients in a timely and dignified manner with privacy and convenience. 

St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor's Cancer Center

"The knowledge and passion of the doctors and nurses who cared for me was unmatched.  They were thorough, straight-forward, kind and included me in the planning process. That was really important to me,"

-Stacy Adams, SJMHS patient, wife and mother, and survivor of Stage III Breast Cancer.

Fueling Knowledge, Passion and Collaboration

Our people-centered approach to cancer care is poised upon three strategic aims – better health, better care and lower costs.  The newly designed Cancer Center will not only allow us to sustain and further grow our successful programs, it will also allow us to continue moving toward preventative care; managing symptoms and treatments in a manner that reduces the need for ER and inpatient visits; and supporting a medical home model to enhance communication, increase efficiencies and improve patient outcomes.

St. Joe’s dedication to meeting our patients’ urgent needs and providing ongoing support includes designated oncology social workers, nutritional counselors, financial counselors, support group leaders, and oncology chaplains and partners with the American Cancer Society and the Cancer Support Community of Ann Arbor who have volunteers, resources and programs on site at St. Joe’s. 

These teams work to connect patients to the essentials needed to promote recovery and wellness --- access to proper nutrition, prescription medications, transportation, financial assistance and health insurance options, and free and low-cost screening.

In 2013, St. Joe’s hired a second genetic counselor to help patients in efforts to manage their risks for certain cancers, follow prevention protocols and manage this life-threatening disease in a proactive approach.

In an effort to reach further in meeting patients’ needs, St. Joe’s has developed a palliative care program that is designated for patients with advanced stages of cancer.  By meeting their palliative care and pain needs earlier in their course, patient care is improved and hospital admissions are avoided.  Four staff members and one doctor will ensure that patients are provided with comfort, spiritual care and medical interventions to reduce pain, and provide hospice services in a timely and dignified manner.

The newly created lower level that St. Joe’s has planned as part of this expansion project offers an open inviting environment and will add much needed square footage.  It will feature amenities that make it ideal for providing support programs that fully meet patients’ needs and foster comfort and recovery. 

In addition, project plans include a state-of-the art auditorium and conference center fully outfitted with high-tech capabilities - a lower level with high return on investment, it will offer local and national physician and clinician leaders a location to be a part of cancer care excellence, offering space for large education forums and telemedicine capabilities including real-time-video conferencing for collaboration of care and a sharing of best practices making the investments and benefits of the new space reach beyond the walls of St. Joe’s. 

We were on the forefront, building the first comprehensive cancer center 25 years ago.  And, we are at the forefront today with plans to build a new Cancer Center that fully supports and enhances a more expansive definition of comprehensive care that is value based – with specialists in medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgery working together, to enhance communication and make care better for patients.  

From a grand entrance, to a welcoming centralized reception area, to state-of-the-art and people-centered treatment, education and support areas, the new Cancer Center will be a one-of-a-kind facility offering the latest in cancer care excellence and driving innovation and progress for the future of patients and families in need of quality, compassionate, life-saving care.

Call to Action

The Transformation of St. Joe's Cancer Center will create a space that reflects St. Joe's advanced diagnostics, life-saving treatments, leading-edge technology, pioneering research, and innovative support and education services.

Your gift will support immediate and lasting benefits for patients.  You can make a difference for the patients who rely on St. Joe's every day for a healing environment that supports quality compassionate cancer care, improved outcomes and hope.

To make your reservation today or for more information contact:

Melissa Sheppard, Director of Special Events, at 734-712-4079 or
Lynn Williams, Manager of Special Events, at 734-712-3192 or via e-mail at

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St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor | 5301 McAuley Drive, Ypsilanti, MI 48197 | 734-712-3456