One More Time
N. Hait, MD, PhD, director of The Cancer Institute of New
Jersey and associate dean, Oncology Programs, UMDNJ-Robert
Wood Johnson Medical School.
The design and construction team for the new wing of The
Cancer Institute of New Jersey - a five story, 150,000 square-foot
expansion which tripled the size of the original building
in New Brunswick and opened last May - heard these words so
often, they could finish the sentence for CINJ Director William
"Walk me through it one more time."
One hundred thousand patient visits will be handled by this
facility annually. Taking their lives and mindsets to heart,
Hait first wanted to know this building by heart. Over and
over again, he walked through it mentally when it existed
only in his mind's eye, then virtually on architectural drawings
and later on foot when it was a construction site and a work
in progress. For the busiest man at CINJ, this was no easy
feat. "I was very much involved," he says, "but so were all
the senior CINJ managers. There was just something about this
project that grabbed us all."
Nick Fabbroni, MBA, a UMDNJ director of construction, would
get the call and pass the word. "He wants to walk through
it one more time." Each time the team did, however, the CINJ
project improved. "Seriously, we all ended up being happy
that he had asked, 'Can I walk through it one more time?'"
Hait was so keen on eliminating mistakes, on facilitating
an institute that could pride itself on extraordinarily high
quality, compassionate patient care, and on creating a space
that would flawlessly integrate three major areas - research,
prevention and control of cancer - that even his eye for color
On the fourth floor of the new CINJ
wing, Hait points out features on the state-of-the-art laboratory
"Talk to me about the color 'cottage,'" he laughs, before
entering the $71 million extension for an intimate tour. "Yes,
I was very involved and at one point, I just didn't think
the colors were coming together." A warm creamy "cottage"
color soon replaced the dark, rusty, red-brick tones which
had been too predominant and potentially saddening inside.
With walls of glass which allow natural sunlight to flood
the structure, six new treatment areas, more than 30 traditional
exam rooms, several expansive reception and nursing areas,
separate floors for research as well as preventive, epidemiological
endeavors, "the building may be large," Hait says, "but we
wanted the spaces to be small, private and comfortable for
patients." There is an intimacy about it from the moment you
enter through the extra large, revolving front door. To the
right, you can't skip the 1,000 gallon aquarium of mesmerizing
tropical fish in the first floor waiting room which offers
a soothing focus if you don't want to read or concentrate
on anything but life swimming around you.
Take the pediatric division on the second floor as typical.
Open the door and you are suddenly in a happy-go-lucky area
complete with stars on the ceiling, purples, greens and a
Peter Pan eye for decorating, even in the construction of
the play table which wanders structurally in one long, curved
pattern through the waiting area, inviting sick kids to sit
down and then run away with their imaginations. In the glass-enclosed
Resource and Learning Center, staffed by a medical librarian
and just outside the pediatric area, children's books haven't
been overlooked either and are among the varied resources
for patients and families who need to research treatment procedures,
clinical trials and symptom management. If you want to see
inside your body or touch a replica of some unimaginable part,
you'll find colorful plastic models of human organs and systems.
Stephanie Grospe, RN, MSN, OCN, CINJ
associate director of patient care services.
Perhaps Hait's favorite aspect of the building lies in the
integration of science and medicine. "In the case of cancer,
where half of your patients are not going to be cured, if
you give the standard treatment, you are going to get the
standard result and that's not good," he says. On the other
hand, the element of fear is definitely a factor for someone
with cancer who considers becoming part of research. Comfort,
privacy and the reassuring familiarity of a place can help
put people at ease.
"There is a tough balance between running a research institute
and providing the best care for people." Hait thinks this
building and the people inside it who work for cancer patients
reflect that perfect balance. Some do double duty, like the
tumor study coordinator, who feeds those fish every night.
Kara Lien Madelozo, of Bridgewater, NJ, in
the new pediatric playroom at CINJ
Up on the fourth floor, where the number of CINJ labs increased
from 22 to 44, and where solitary research could have been
encouraged by the building's design, a people-centered approach
was taken. Hait smiles about this because he knows something
about all this from a very personal point. Blackboards line
the hallways so scientists can and do leave messages for one
another. Offices are not located within the laboratories themselves
but are situated across the hall so individuals have to emerge
and physically interact with one another. Even within the
labs, an internal hallway connects every bench scientist on
the floor and "encourages sharing," according to this hands-on
director. Lights are directly above the benches. Doors came
off the storage cabinets on one of those walk-throughs because
it was determined that researchers worked best when they could
see what was up on their shelves immediately. When he first
began his own life as a researcher after receiving his degree
from the University of Pennsylvania, while pursuing his MD
and PhD degrees in pharmacology at the Medical College of
Pennsylvania and later at Yale, having an office within the
lab kept him inside for hours on end. Coming out for conversation
is critical for fertilizing ideas and impossible to avoid
Designed by the Hillier Group and constructed by Sordoni
Skanska Building USA, "This building is a dream come true,"
Hait's only problem at the moment is that it isn't big enough.
Though the stone, two-level, falling-water fountain out front
is still being tweaked by an engineer on the day of our tour
and the plantings around the circular driveway are just sending
out roots, the demand for CINJ has already outgrown the available
space. This being true, Bill Hait, who once toyed with pursuing
a career in basketball, has now proven that he can walk through
a construction project like a pro, any time.