She typed the words “leading lymphoma treatment center” into the Google search box and pressed enter.
It was September 2004 and Chris Pilcher-Huerter of Omaha, was now seeking treatment advice for her newly diagnosed Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The search results that appeared on her computer screen matched what she already knew — what everyone, including her family full of respected medical professionals, had told her. The best option was only a few miles from home— the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The home team
Pilcher-Huerter made an appointment with international lymphoma expert Julie Vose, M.D., chief of the UNMC Division of Oncology and Hematology and a 1984 UNMC graduate. Soon after, she met her medical team and began treatment.
“I could’ve gone to one of the most well-known cancer centers in the country,” Pilcher-Huerter said. “But after my initial meeting with Dr. Vose, and the immediacy the team showed, I chose with confidence to stay right here at home.”
Now three years cancer-free, Pilcher- Huerter “strives to pay it back” to the place and the people that gave her life back. She is an active volunteer at UNMC where she serves in many capacities, including as a member of the Patient Family Advisory Council.
It was through her work with the council that Pilcher-Huerter first became aware of the plans for a new cancer center on the UNMC and The Nebraska Medical Center campus in Omaha.
Better for patients
The center, a $370 million project, will provide the entire scope of cancer treatment and therapy by a multi-disciplinary team, bringing together physicians, nurses, pharmacists, cancer researchers and others in an environment where research and patient care seamlessly integrate.
“From a patient’s point of view, going from one clinic to the next to the next can be very trying,” she said. “The whole idea of having physicians, scientists, clinics and treatment facilities in one place is going to be so much more convenient for patients, for loved ones, for family members. And to have that here in Nebraska is absolutely unbelievable.”
Better for discoveries and new treatments
Translational cancer medicine — taking research from bench to bedside — will increase dramatically.
“Laboratory researchers will literally be shoulder to shoulder with practicing physicians,” said Kenneth Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center. “Their proximity will hasten the transfer of discoveries from the lab into new treatments that benefit patients.”
“Not that I plan on having cancer again,” she said with a laugh, “But this will elevate the superior care that’s right here in our backyard. And it’s going to impact all Nebraskans, not just the ones with cancer.”
The center would create an estimated 1,200 highly skilled jobs and infuse $100 million into the state economy. And it will position UNMC and The Nebraska Medical Center to earn the National Cancer Institute’s top designation of Comprehensive Cancer Center.
This achievement would place the medical center among the 40 best cancer centers in the country.