What will become the MercyOne Cancer Center is midway through materializing, with visible signs of a design centered on the experience of both patients and caregivers.

Construction at the site has come a long way since future patients and loved ones of past patients gathered in May to sign a beam to be installed in the building. The $25 million, 40,000-square-foot facility is set to open next spring.

The building’s frame, interior structure and some exterior walls are up, offering a silhouette and vision of how cancer patient care will flow through the building.

“We’re now on the countdown to do the ribbon cutting for the center in May — just seven months,” said Kay Takes, president of the MercyOne Eastern Iowa Region. “We continue to be very excited to bring really advanced cancer care to the region.”

The cancer center will be attached to the existing MercyOne Dubuque Medical Center via Medical Associates’ Professional Arts Plaza, which will get a new entrance as part of the construction.

Upon entering the cancer center, the first-floor space is dedicated to reception and offices.

MercyOne Facilities Director Chad Darter said that area will have glass walls to let in as much natural light as possible. However, it will be surrounded by heated concrete to provide a safe entrance and exit for patients during the winter.

In the rear is where the thrumming heart of the center’s radiation treatment will be held — the linear accelerator “vault.” This is a bunker of concrete and lead built to shield the surrounding area from the X-rays produced by the machine.

Above this, the second floor is split, with a hallway between patient rooms and physicians’ offices.

The eastern edge of the second floor will be the building’s main feature — a waiting room with a verdant view of the city leading to the river, over the Dubuque-Wisconsin Bridge and into Wisconsin.

“The views will be calming and peaceful,” Darter said. “A lot of glass will make it feel warm.”

Dr. Richard Deming, a radiation oncologist and medical director at MercyOne Des Moines Cancer Center, said there’s science to support this feature.

“Many studies look at the healing power of nature,” he said, while wearing a hard hat for the tour. “So to be able to bring that nature into the room is really nice.”

Much of the design has wound around the idea of the patient as the center of the care.

“Patients will receive their chemotherapy over here (just off the waiting room), and then if they’re receiving this therapy with radiation, rather than having to go out to the parking lot, drive to another location, they can just ride the elevator down and get their radiation,” said Dr. Eric Engelman, medical director of MercyOne Cancer Center. “They won’t have to leave the building.”

This is all part of the integrated care model on which the center is based. The building will house medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons, all of whom will form what Engelman called a “tumor board,” to work together on each patient’s care.

Between physicians, patients will be guided by a “nurse navigator,” the first of which cancer center Executive Director David Tatman said already has been hired and is working.

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