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Published in CenterView on February 10, 2014
Vance speaks at Hope Lodge announcement.
Vance speaks at Hope Lodge announcement.

New facility at UMMC to offer lodging for cancer patients, caregivers

By Jack Mazurak

Mississippi’s first American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, planned for construction this year at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, will give cancer patients a cost-free place to stay during treatment.

On a cool morning in late January, Gov. Phil Bryant, ACS representatives, area health-care administrators and supporters gathered on the edge of a stretch of woods along the Medical Center property’s northeast side to make the announcement.

Bryant said the ACS has done a great job encouraging people to live healthier so as to not need cancer services. But when people do require care, he said, there is hope.

Kelly Doss, ACS Mid-South Division executive vice president, said the planned facility will offer cancer patients and caregivers lodging when in Jackson to receive cancer treatments at any metro-area care provider. Construction could start in late summer.

At the halfway point in its $11 million fund-raising goal, Doss, area health-care leaders, project volunteers and supporters asked for the public’s help with the project.

Michael Artman of Madison, a cancer survivor of 14 years, testified to the comfort – psychological, physical and financial – that a Hope Lodge provides.

During college, he traveled to Indianapolis for cancer care four times, including for surgery to remove a tumor on his spine. During that time he stayed at an ACS Hope Lodge for two weeks.

“Having a place like the Hope Lodge will help families across Mississippi fight cancer and win,” Artman said. “I really hope you support your Mississippi Hope Lodge.”

The Hope Lodge will include 32 guest rooms, each with a private bath and sleeping accommodations for two. It also will offer guests a chapel, community dining, kitchen and recreational areas, and each floor will have a day room and guest laundry with 24-hour access.

The ACS has 31 Hope Lodges across the country, including locations in New Orleans, Birmingham, Memphis and Nashville. In 2012, 255 Mississippi families used Hope Lodges in the ACS Mid-South Division for a total of 3,782 nights.

Dr. Ralph Vance, professor emeritus of medical oncology and a longtime ACS volunteer, said many patients require multiple weeks of treatment and the availability of a Hope Lodge can mean the difference between completing a treatment regimen and dropping out early.

“Last year, Hope Lodge facilities saved cancer patients and their families nearly $26 million in expense,” he said. “I strongly encourage everyone across Mississippi to support this important project.”

Jerry Host, president and CEO of Trustmark Corp., and Hope Lodge Capital Campaign Committee co-chair, said the project will positively impact the community.

“The Hope Lodge is important to Jackson and the surrounding areas from a pure quality-of-life standpoint for cancer patients, and also from an economic standpoint,” he said. “Having a facility like this will attract people to Jackson so they are utilizing our hospitals, which in turn, has a positive growth impact on our medical community.”

The Medical Center has pledged a real estate lease gift valued at $1.5 million for the building. The exact location of the Hope Lodge has yet to be finalized.

Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs, and other area health-care executives, including Lester Diamond, president of St. Dominic’s Hospital, Kurt Metzner, CEO of Baptist Health Systems, and Dr. Richard Friedman of Radiation Oncology of Mississippi, took the podium to advocate for support.

“We hope that this facility will be a home-away-from-home and a bright light to those who are going through cancer treatment,” Diamond said.

The ACS selected Trivers and Associates in St. Louis for architectural services, as the company has designed multiple Hope Lodges across the country.