By Stephen J. Kotz
Supporters of Fighting Chance, the Sag Harbor-based free cancer counseling center serving the East End, received a piece of good news at the organization’s annual gala on Saturday at the Maidstone Club in East Hampton.
At the event, Southampton Hospital President and CEO Robert Chaloner, one of two recipients of the organization’s Medal of Honor, said Fighting Chance would be provided with a satellite office when the hospital opens a new cancer center in Southampton Village next year.
The hospital announced plans for the Phillips Family Cancer Center, a 14,000-square-foot, $20 million facility, in January after receiving a $9 million donation from the Phillips Family Trust. The facility will be the first cancer treatment center in Southampton. The next closest is at the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.
“Having a cancer center closer to home is what people on the East End have needed for years,” said Karrie Robinson, Fighting Chance’s director of clinical services and programs, of the hospital’s decision to open the facility.
She said Fighting Chance looked forward to continuing its work with other cancer support organizations such as the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center and the Coalition for Women’s Cancers. “We’ve always worked as a team,” she said.
The announcement that the hospital would provide Fighting Chance with a satellite office means “a huge amount,” said Duncan Darrow, the organization’s founder and chairman.
“We’d love to have a satellite there,” he said, noting that now, with an office in Sag Harbor, Fighting Chance tends to draw clients from Southampton eastward. An office in Southampton should help extend its reach to the west, he said.
“In rural cancer care, transportation ranks very high in the list of importance,” he continued. “In the city, if you asked does transportation to your care matter, most people would probably respond ‘Bus, subway, taxi, what does it matter?’ but in a rural setting it is much more important.”
Besides Mr. Chaloner, Fighting Chance honored Dr. Yusef A. Hannun, the director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center, Vice Dean for Cancer Medicine, and Joel Strum Kenny Professor in Cancer Research at Stony Brook University, with a Medal of Honor.
“The thing that unites Yusef and Bob is leadership,” said Mr. Darrow. “In urban cancer care, you have the luxury of going to the Macy’s of cancer care where everything is at your fingertips,” he said. “In rural cancer care, you have a series of dots, or pods of resources and it takes leaders to connect them.”
Mr. Darrow said approximately 200 people attended Saturday’s gala, which was held at the Maidstone Club for the second year in a row. The event raised approximately $140,000, he said.
“That is so important for us because our services are totally professional — and they are free,” added Ms. Robinson.
“The hospital has been looking at the development of a cancer center for the community for awhile,” Mr. Chaloner said this week. That goal took a major leap forward when the Phillips family made its gift last year. Mr. Chaloner said the hospital is continuing to fundraise and would finance the balance.
He said the hospital would prefer to have the center bought and paid for, “but in this case, it is a program we want to get up sooner than later, so we will approach banks with a business plan.”
The center will be a wholly owned satellite of the hospital. Mr. Chaloner said the hospital is building it off-site in large part because “cancer patients don’t like being reminded of their illness” and being required to come to the hospital does that.
The cancer center will be constructed on property on County Road 39, just south of Long Island Bone and Joint and across the street from BMW of Southampton. The overgrown property is now the site of an abandoned barn.
Mr. Chaloner said the center would offer radiation therapy on first floor and chemotherapy on the second floor with space dedicated to treatment, medical offices and community room.
He said the hospital expects to break ground on the facility and have it up and running by late 2017, provided it gets the state Department of Health approvals and village regulatory approvals it needs. “We look to be in pretty good position,” he said.
Mr. Chaloner said the hospital is still waiting for its partnership with Stony Brook University Hospital to be finalized. Once that is complete, he said he wanted to focus on his “dream of new hospital on the campus” of Southampton-Stony Brook.
“First, we need to get this deal done with Stony Brook,” he said of the partnership, which continues to wend its way through the regulatory process. A new facility would cost about $250 million, he said. “That will take a major fundraising effort.”