As the Emily Couric Cancer Center is set to open, a new book chronicles the progression of cancer care at the University of Virginia over the last century. "A History of Cancer Care at UVA" takes readers back to 1901 when the medical center first opened its doors.
Call it a fear of the unknown, but around the turn of the 20th century a cancer diagnosis would often go ignored.
"Nobody talked about cancer in those days, and we had no facilities," Morton Wilhelm said.
But surgical oncology professor emeritus Morton C. Wilhelm says even after the University of Virginia Medical Center opened its doors in 1901, 58% of patients faced the prospect of imminent death.
"But as the years progressed, there were a solid core of physicians and nurses at the hospital who really wanted to see a cancer program instituted, not only for the hospital but also for the community," Claude Moore Health Sciences Library Historical Collections Curator Joan Echtenkamp Klein said.
Wilhelm collaborated with Klein and author Henry Sharp to chronicle that journey.
"We aim to get the story of cancer treatment out to the community, and to show people how closely involved the University of Virginia has actually been in cancer treatment over its whole history," Sharp said.
But it was not until 1995 when UVA joined only 16 other hospitals to gain a federal clinical cancer center designation, that care and research took off.
That distinction opened the door to tens of millions of dollars in grants, and took cancer research from isolated lab tests, to cutting edge clinical trials, but there was still one piece missing, a centralized cancer care center.
"Before this, everybody was scattered all over in different places. It's nice to have all the facilities together, and this is a beautiful one, and it will mean a lot for patient care."
That missing piece, the Emily Couric Cancer Center, is set to open this spring.