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McQuain Trust gives WVU Medicine $50 million to begin work to create new cancer hospital in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN – The Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust has planted a $50 million seed that will grow into a $500 million Hazel Ruby McQuain Comprehensive Cancer Hospital, the Trust and WVU Medicine announced on Tuesday.

Leaders from the Trust, WVU and WVUM unveiled renderings of the planned hospital and talked about their vision during a Tuesday morning gathering.

Charitable Trust chair Steve Farmer unveils one of the renderings. David Beard/The Dominion Post

The hospital – part of the WVU Cancer Institute – will be part of the J.W. Ruby Memorial Hosptial Complex that spans the area from WVUM Children’s to the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute building. It will be built on the site of the current Eye Institute, which will be relocated, said WVUM President and CEO Albert Wright.

It will have its own entrance, cafeteria, clinics, infusion center, operating rooms, inpatient rooms and imaging suites, Wright said. “This will be the destination hospital for cancer in the state of West Virginia.”

Steve Farmer, chair of the Charitable Trust, recalled that 40 years ago, then-President Gordon Gee had a medical center that had been condemned and a medical school in peril of being relocated to Charleston.

So then-WVU Hospitals President David Fine and Gee came to see George Farmer – Steve Farmer’s father and chair of the Trust at that time – and told him they needed a new hospital to save Morgantown’s healthcare system. That led to Hazel Ruby McQuain giving $8.5 million in 1983to build Ruby Memorial. “That has changed this community dramatically in many ways.”

Another view of the hospital.

Now, he said, the WVU Health System has 881 beds comprising about 55% of the beds in West Virginia.

Wright said, “If we’re going to be the academic health system of the land grant university of the state of West Virginia, we have to give hope for folks all around the state. … Our goal as we go through our master campus plan … is to really focus the campus with the cancer hospital.

WVUM has hospitals, he said, and most offer some kind of oncology care. “Our true north as a healthcare system is to improve the heath trajectory of the State of West Virginia.” With the new hospital, they’ll be able to attract more great physicians and clinicians.

Clay Marsh, WVU’s chancellor and executive dean for Health Sciences, looked at the human element, saying doctors must practice both care and caring. He offered a quote by a prominent physician: “A good doctor takes care of the disease the patient has; a great doctor takes care of the person that has the disease.”

On the technology side, he said, there have been significant advances in cancer care, such as being able to direct the immune system to kill cancer cells without harming the surrounding cells. But on the human side, the advances help children enjoy more birthdays, help parents spend more time with their children, help families come together around the dinner table.

Dr. Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, executive chair WVU Cancer Institute, said a cancer diagnosis changes a person’s life trajectory. The institute’s job is to convert fear to hope. The trust’s gift “symbolizes the power of our community and our commitment to transform the way we deliver cancer care to this state and this region. … This cancer center will be more than bricks and mortar. It is a place of hope, healing and compassion.”

Gee – back again as president – remarked on a comment made earlier by WVU Foundation President and CEO Cindi Roth, who said that the McQuain Trust has given $142 million to WVU, not counting Tuesday’s $50 million gift made through the foundation. “It’s a quiet foundation that has had an enormous impact.”

He said Tuesday was a day of celebration. “The thing that we’re celebrating today is the fact that we have built a world-class health system. No individual will ever have to leave West Virginia to get great healthcare, and now we can say that precisely about cancer.”

Wright and others took some press questions after the round of speeches. He talked about the master campus plan and how the complex has grown from just Ruby Memorial to a campus of sub-specialization institutes, and the hospital will be the newest.

The project will take time, Wright said. Over the next three to five years, comprehensive plans and designs will emerge. They will hold a fundraising campaign to build on the $50 million gift and they hope more will get involved and give to help move toward that estimated $500 million goal.

Marsh talked about WVU’s emerging presence in the medical world. They are competing for talent, he said. They started at a local, state and regional level but now are operating at national and international level. This will help convince people to come to West Virginia. “Having a facility of this quality and this caliber will augment our ability to deliver this care, but also our ability to recruit and retain the best talent.”

Dr. Tom Takubo, WVU Health System executive vice president for provider relations, said this comprehensive cancer center opens the door to National Cancer Institute designation.

The hospital could become the 73rd NCI-designated cancer center, he said, and 75% of all cancer funding goes to those hospitals. And WVU’s statewide network will provide access to care across the state. “We’ll be able to change the survival rates amongst everybody.”

The move toward that NCI designation was also aided last June when the Legislature provided the WVU Cancer Institute with a $50 million supplemental appropriation to support reaching that designation, a process that typically takes five to seven years.

Development of the hospital is subject to certain approvals from the WVU Health System and WVU Hospitals governing boards, as well as various regulatory authorities, and will occur over the next several years as the Health System updates its campus plan to account for the new hospital.