Thursday, January 17, 2013
The Maryland Proton Treatment Center, a more than $200 million collaborative health care project that will bring to Maryland the most advanced radiation technology in cancer treatment, celebrated its “topping out” with a ceremony at the building’s site on January 17, 2013.
Topping out is a major construction milestone, marking the last beam being laid in the building. The University of Maryland School of Medicine and its Department of Radiation Oncology, which will operate the proton therapy center, was joined by the developer, San Diego-based Advanced Particle Therapy, as well as Haskell, the architecture, construction and engineering firm for the project, in celebrating this milestone with a traditional topping out ceremony. The facility is scheduled to begin treating patients in 2015.
“We are delighted that this project is moving forward so swiftly and are most grateful for the assistance of our partners in bringing the Maryland Proton Treatment Center to fruition,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the School of Medicine.
“I have enjoyed watching this building grow from the time of our groundbreaking exactly nine months ago, and I am excited to mark the progress with today’s traditional topping out ceremony. My congratulations go to the entire construction, radiation oncology, and proton therapy teams.”
At the ceremony, a giant crane hoisted a nine-foot beam three stories above the street and rested it in place at the top of what will be a 122,000-square-foot facility in the University of Maryland BioPark in West Baltimore. Nearly 400 invited guests — including construction workers and leadership from all the partner organizations — signed the white beam in a rainbow of colors before it was put in place. Each color represented a different cancer: i.e., gray for brain cancer, pink for breast cancer, orange for kidney cancer, etc. In keeping with a long-standing tradition of the topping out ceremony, the beam carried with it an evergreen tree and an American flag.
The beam also carried a bell, which will be displayed in the center’s lobby upon completion of the building. Patients will ring the bell at the end of their proton treatment, to celebrate that healing milestone. “It’s a bell of hope,” said William Regine, MD, the Isadore & Fannie Schneider Foxman Professor and Chair in the Department of Radiation Oncology.
“That bell represents the end of precision radiation therapy and hope for cancer survivorship. We are building a facility that will give us another tool in our cancer-fighting toolbox, proton radiation therapy, something we don’t have in the Baltimore/Washington area right now. This building that you’re building will truly have an impact on the lives of cancer patients.”
Minesh Mehta, MBChB, FASTRO, who will be medical director of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center, thanked the construction crews for putting their all into this project. “Today represents a triumph of engineering and organizational skills that has brought us here to this stage of construction safely, thanks to all of you,” he told them.
“Our challenge is to take this triumph of engineering to the next level – the triumph of hope. The triumph of hope is illustrated in that beam that we had the opportunity to sign today in a variety of colors. Each color represents a unique patient – a father, mother, child, sister, brother or friend – someone we care about who has suffered the ravages of cancer. With the raising of this beam, the expectations of cancer patients on us are raised as well. Thanks to all of your hard work, we will be able to deliver for those patients.”