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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is dedicated in Omaha

Former VP Joe Biden speaks at dedication ceremony for $323 million, 615,000-square-foot center


The University of Nebraska Medical Center and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, officially dedicated the new Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center this week in Omaha.


Joe Biden, the former two-term vice president who headed a national Cancer Moonshot Task Force, served as keynote speaker at the May 23 ribbon cutting and dedication.


The $323 million facility, which is the largest project ever on the medical center’s Omaha campus, will open its door to its first patients on June 5. The facility was named in recognition of a gift from Pamela Buffett, through her foundation, the Rebecca Susan Buffett Foundation. Pamela’s husband, Fred “Fritz” Buffett, died in 1997 after fighting kidney cancer.


Biden called the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center a “remarkable facility” before an audience of health care professionals, elected officials, community leaders and members of the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine community.


“I’ll bet almost every one of you in this audience has been touched by cancer,” he said. “Either you personally, a family member, a husband, wife or child — someone you love, somebody close to you. Cancer is in a sense a communal disease — no one family member contracts the disease that the entire family doesn’t feel the consequences. So that’s why I think what you’re doing here is so, so important.”


As the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in Nebraska, the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center offers treatment options and clinical trials not found elsewhere. The cancer center includes:

  • The Suzanne and Walter Scott Cancer Research Tower, a 10-story, 98-laboratory research tower;
  • The C.L. Werner Cancer Hospital, an eight-story, 108-bed inpatient treatment center; and
  • A multidisciplinary outpatient center which includes clinics, radiation oncology, surgery, radiology, a 24/7 treatment center, lab and collaborative treatment/diagnostics.


“The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is a beacon of hope for all who have been touched by cancer or had loved ones impacted by the disease,” said UNMC Chancellor and Nebraska Medicine Board Chair Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. “This facility symbolizes our unwavering commitment to providing unmatched cancer research and care to all Nebraskans and the world.”


“The Buffett Cancer Center brings together a powerhouse team of more than 200 oncologists and basic scientists to find better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer,” said Nebraska Medicine CEO Dan DeBehnke, M.D., M.B.A. “This is a landmark event in our medical center’s history.”


Unique in its design, the Buffett Cancer Center is the most fully integrated cancer center in the world, said Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. The 615,000-square-foot center, with hallways as long as football fields, puts clinical providers in close proximity with their research colleagues with the goal of more efficiently translating research to patient care.


The teams are specifically focused on breast cancer and other women’s cancers, leukemia and lymphoma, lung cancer, pancreatic and gastrointestinal cancers, prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, and cancers diagnosed in childhood.


In addition to breakthrough “precision medicine” that targets the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of the disease itself, the center also takes a holistic approach to health care with a healing arts program that includes commissioned artwork by internationally acclaimed artists:

  • The Chihuly Sanctuary (given by Suzanne and Walter Scott) – created by Dale Chihuly;
  • The 82-foot-tall ‘Search’ tower – created by Jun Kaneko of Omaha; and
  • Leslie’s Healing Garden, an outdoor, all-season garden created with support from Marshall and Mona Faith.


“The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is focused not just on treatments and cures, but on healing – ways we can bring patient families together, to give them strength and courage, to give them the hope to deal with otherwise challenging diseases,” Dr. Gold said.


Patient amenities include the use of high-technology tablets so inpatients can see who their caregivers are, ask questions, see their labs and what tests are coming – all to help alleviate the anxiety typically associated with a hospital stay.


“The patient experience is essential to the healing process,” said Dr. DeBehnke, noting that a Patient Advisory Council provided input on aspects of the project, including furnishings.


“The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center facilitates the brightest minds in cancer research and cancer care to collaborate on finding tomorrow’s cures, specifying those treatments to each patient based on their unique condition,” Dr. Cowan said. “In this facility, medical scientists discover the next generation of cancer therapies targeted toward molecular changes in tumors, resulting in a treatment regimen individualized for each patient.”


During the dedication ceremony, medical center leaders recognized the founding benefactors: Pamela Buffett (Rebecca Susan Buffett Foundation), Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation, and CL & Rachel Werner. Distinguished benefactors are: Clarkson Regional Health Services, Mary and Dick Holland, Peter Kiewit Foundation, Robert B. Daugherty Foundation, and Ruth and Bill Scott.


In addition, the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center received an unprecedented show of support – a total of $90 million from the state of Nebraska, the city of Omaha and Douglas County, and an employee campaign that raised significant funds.


For the past 50 years, UNMC/Nebraska Medicine clinicians have treated patients from all 50 states and more than 42 different countries around the world.


The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center – a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center – is a collaboration of Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb. The new cancer center will open in June 2017 with cancer research at the Suzanne and Walter Scott Cancer Research Tower and clinical treatments at the C.L. Werner Cancer Hospital.

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