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In the health care world, it seems things are continually “under construction,” both figuratively and literally.

Here at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, we’re getting ready to break ground on a much-anticipated renovation and expansion of our cancer center, and the sights and sounds of construction activity signal a lot of excitement. A project of this magnitude is a welcome sign of economic growth. It will cost an estimated $24 million in capital dollars and donor funds. It will create construction jobs for the next 14 months until our projected completion in November 2018. But the real hope and aim is that through this new cancer center, we’ll change the way we deliver care, allowing us to serve our communities even better than we are now.

We want this new state-of-the-art facility to help cancer patients and their families return to wellness by combining the very best in prevention, screening, diagnostic, treatment, integrative services and survivorship all in one location.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor (SJMAA) hospital grounds on Sept 13 to kick off its $24 million expansion and renovation of the Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Center, and announce its $10 million Life is Remarkable Campaign. Pictured at the event are (from left) Alonzo Lewis, SJMAA Senior Vice President of Operations ; Rob Casalou, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System (SJMHS) Regional President and CEO; Dave Brooks, president, St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston hospitals; Fran Petonic, SJMHS Regional Vice President for Development; Techy Rodriguez Doyle, Honorary Co-Chair, Life is Remarkable Campaign; Judy Dow Rumelhart, Honorary Co-Chair, Life is Remarkable Campaign; Dr. Phil Stella, SJMHS Medical Director of Oncology Services; Dr. Katie Beekman, SJMHS Medical Director of Infusion Services; Dr. Walt Sahijdak, SJMHS Medical Director of Radiation Oncology; Dr. Ernie Sorini, Cabinet Member, Life is Remarkable Campaign; Kelly Sorini, Chair, Life is Remarkable Campaign; Susan Wyman, SJMHS Regional Oncology Director and Beth LaVasseur, SJMAA Executive Director of Oncology.

It is a tall order, and we want to get it right. So we consulted the experts – our own patients. Our patients have been an integral part of design and strategy, and they’ve helped identify opportunities for improvement. It’s exciting to think we’re developing a care model that keeps the patient at the center.

What implications does people-centered care have on the growth of our economy? When we provide better care for our most vulnerable, we help them return more quickly to their daily lives and families. We become more than just a health care provider – we become a trusted health care partner.

We don’t just want to be good stewards of our patients, though. We also want to steward our communities and its people. This mission manifests itself in various ways at St. Joe’s, including our pilot program that provides farm-fresh produce to 40 Ypsilanti families each week. This grant-funded program run by The Farm at St. Joe’s not only utilizes produce grown on our own campus, but also produce grown by local farmers to round out the share.  Our collaboration with Washtenaw County Public Health’s Prescription for Health Program also ensures we are supporting local agriculture by giving food-insecure patients access to fruits and vegetables at our community farmers markets.

We’ve known for a long time that economically-sound communities are also healthier. But   healthier communities are also good for the economy. We in health care have a responsibility to make smart investments, whether in new facilities or innovative programming. We’re building a trust we can leverage to attract top talent – the doctors, nurses and front line staff who carry out our mission to be a transforming healing presence in the community.

It’s a work in progress, an ongoing project we’re proud to say is under construction.

About Dave Brooks
Dave Brooks is the president of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston hospitals. He leads all operations and strategy for these two hospitals as well as affiliated acute care facilities, surgery centers, emergency rooms and urgent cares, and numerous ambulatory and physician practices. Brooks played a key role in the $41 million renovation of St. Joe’s Livingston facilities, and the $24 million cancer center renovation and expansion now under way at St. Joe’s Ann Arbor.
A native of Detroit, Dave earned his bachelor’s degree with honors from Wayne State University and his master’s degree in Health Services Administration from the University of Michigan. Brooks is currently on the Wayne State University Masters of Public Health External Advisory Committee, and recently served on the Board of Directors for the Chandler Park Conservancy. He is a fellow with the American College of Healthcare Executives.