The Future of Outpatient Cancer Surgery Takes Shape with New, First-of-Its-Kind Facility


A major transformation is beginning in cancer surgery that will enable patients to go home within a day of undergoing a significant operation. The new Josie Robertson Surgery Center (JRSC), opened by Memorial Sloan Kettering, exemplifies that transformation: a patient-focused facility that leverages technology and highly trained clinical teams to provide optimal care. 

More than 50 percent of the 20,000 surgeries performed at MSK in 2015 were outpatient procedures. At full capacity, the JRSC accommodates 60 surgeries a day — more than any other freestanding outpatient cancer surgery center in the tri-state area. The facility’s 12 operating rooms are specifically designed for specialty procedures for breast cancer and reconstruction as well as head and neck, gynecologic, and urologic cancers — including procedures that traditionally required inpatient admission.

“We are pioneering a new standard for outpatient surgery, one that seeks to transform cancer surgery worldwide,” said JRSC Director Brett Simon, MD, PhD. “Our commitment to elevating the patient experience is reflected in our emphasis on minimizing the anxiety often felt by patients undergoing cancer surgery. Incorporating technology-based tools — including video conferencing that enables patients to speak with their families or doctors at remote locations and a real-time location system that allows patients to move freely through many parts of the building, both before and after procedures — can help reduce those feelings of anxiety and keep patients focused on the most important thing, their recovery.”

MSK surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses have rethought every part of a patient’s pathway — from scheduling through to recovery from surgery — and identified ways to improve the experience. This includes changes in anesthetics used for some procedures to minimize side effects and the introduction of technology that helps patients track their progress toward recovery goals. It also encompasses the architecture of the JRSC itself, which is designed to encourage patients to get up and walk. Patients take an active role in their own care, empowered with knowledge to speed their recovery. 

The look and feel of the facility is welcoming, serene, and experiential. Working with international design and architecture firm Perkins Eastman and innovation and design studio ICRAVE, every space has been re-imagined through the lens of patients and caregivers to make them as comfortable as possible while relieving anxiety and leading to a better overall outcome and experience. The waiting room at the JRSC is filled with private spaces for families to find peace and quiet, as well as options for distraction, dining, and exercise. 

The 16-story, 179,000-square-foot building, located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, features sweeping views of the East River. It was established in part by a gift of $50 million from the Robertson Foundation, which was founded in 1996 by Josephine (Josie) Robertson and her husband, legendary investor Julian H. Robertson, along with their family. Josie Robertson was elected to MSK’s Board of Overseers in 2004. Philanthropy was an integral part of her life, and prior to her death in 2010, she worked with her husband to support a range of causes in education, medical research, and other areas.

“Thanks to the Robertson Foundation and the Robertson family’s support, MSK continues to push the vanguard of cancer treatment and innovation,” said MSK President and CEO Craig B. Thompson, MD. “The JRSC will enable MSK to meet the growing need for the highest quality of compassionate care in an outpatient and short-stay setting.”

MSK employees across all disciplines were crucial to the planning and creation of the JRSC. Staff spaces feature flexible workstations, a communal kitchen, and social hubs that are well-equipped for both meetings and connecting with coworkers.