UAMS Renames Cancer Center for Winthrop P. Rockefeller

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) honored the late Winthrop P. Rockefeller, former Arkansas lieutenant governor, today by renaming its Arkansas Cancer Research Center (ACRC) for him while celebrating the groundbreaking for a major expansion to the facility.


The Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute will include a 12-floor, more than 300,000-square-foot addition that will allow the institute to treat more patients and host more research into new treatments. The addition is expected to open in 2010.


Rockefeller, who served as lieutenant governor for 10 years before his death in 2006, was a past member of the ACRC Foundation Board. He, along with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, named for his late father and former Arkansas governor, have been longtime supporters of UAMS. At the renaming ceremony, it was also announced that the Foundation has made a more than $12 million gift to the cancer institute that will in part fund creation of a new leukemia/ lymphoma program.


“The legacy of Winthrop Paul Rockefeller is one of untiring dedication while he was in public office and in his many philanthropic efforts throughout his life,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “It is a fitting tribute to him to rename the ACRC, which has been home to so many doctors, nurses, scientists and staff members who share his untiring spirit in pursuit of a cure for cancer.”


The number of patient visits to the cancer institute has grown since it was established in 1984 and is expected to keep doing so. In fiscal year 2007, there were 120,000 patient visits, compared to 75,000 in 2000. Patient volume has already surpassed predictions made in 2005, in part because of new patients, but also because of new life-prolonging treatments.


“Over the years, the UAMS Arkansas Cancer Research Center has attracted patients from around the world and provided quality care close to home for Arkansans,” said Arkansas first lady Ginger Beebe. “That commitment to service also was evident throughout the life of Winthrop Paul Rockefeller and makes this renaming so appropriate.”


Winthrop Paul Rockefeller was the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil. He was chief executive for Winrock Farms, a cattle ranch started by his father.


Rockefeller was elected governor in a special election in November 1996, then re-elected in 1998 and again in 2002. He was running for governor but withdrew when doctors discovered he had an unclassifiable myeloproliferative disorder, a rare bone marrow disease in which excessive blood cells are manufactured. In some patients, the disease can transform into acute leukemia. Despite his own illness, Rockefeller devoted time after his diagnosis to help raise awareness about the importance of bone marrow donation. He died in 2006. 


“Like his father, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller was committed to improving the lives of Arkansans,” said Sherece West, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation embodies that tradition and is proud to support UAMS and the cancer institute in expanding its programs so it can help more patients from Arkansas, across the country and around the world.”

Rockefeller’s philanthropic and charitable work included involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. He and his wife, Lisenne, founded what is now the Academy at Riverdale, a school for children with learning disabilities. He served as a trustee for Texas Christian University and on the national boards of Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy.


He was a trustee of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust and was vice chairman of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.


While the ACRC has seen more patients, its programs have outgrown the existing 189,000-square-foot building. The Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, world renowned for treating that type of blood cancer, moved across the street to the UAMS Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute. The bone marrow biopsy unit moved to the Outpatient Center next door and the Cancer Control Outreach Program had to lease space down the street at University Mall.


“Through every stage of planning, our staff has worked with architects to design a building that focuses on the comfort of our patients and collaboration of our clinicians and researchers,” said Peter Emanuel, M.D., executive director of the cancer institute. “I’ve said that the cancer institute is poised to make a huge leap forward. This expansion gives us a big launching pad.”


The cancer institute’s expansion will bring those scattered offices back under one roof. There also will be space for new programs, such as Emanuel’s leukemia/lymphoma work.


The building’s orientation will be flipped around with the main entrance moving from the south side to the east with a covered drop-off point for patients. The new entrance and lobby will be located between the existing building and new construction, connecting seamlessly.


On clinic floors, several services are consolidated. In many cases, patients will stay in one place while doctors and staff come visit them — rather than the other way around. Much of the diagnostic testing will be performed there, too, rather than sending patients to other locations on campus for tests.


For the infusion rooms, where patients go for chemotherapy, almost all chairs will have access to natural light, increasing the comfort level for patients.


Researchers will find it easier to work together, with the move to an “open lab” concept. Instead of individual labs, research floors will be open with research “bays” housing multiple investigators. Researchers will be able to share equipment more easily, as well as ideas for collaborative work that could turn into new cancer treatments.


The expansion is being funded in part by a law signed earlier this year to provide up to $50 million in matching funds to build the expansion as well as support patient care and research programs. Act 838 created a $36 million fund to provide a dollar-for-dollar match of private donations in support of the cancer center expansion and program endowments. When that commitment is met, UAMS can ask for $10 million in additional matching funds to be appropriated through the Governor’s discretionary funds in the state’s General Improvement Fund. UAMS can then allocate $4 million in funds from other projects as matching funds for the ACRC.


CDI Contractors, Inc. is the general contractor for the expansion. Cromwell Architects Engineers of Little Rock and FKP Architects of Houston are the architecture/engineering firms for the project.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,538 students and 733 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,600 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. For more information, visit