When Memorial Sloan Kettering opened its doors along Commack Road in 2002, eastern Long Islanders no longer needed to navigate congested roadways and train lines bound for Manhattan to receive personalized cancer care. Today, more than 14 years later, MSK is reinforcing its commitment to the local community in the form of a 38,000-plus-square-foot addition complete with enhancements to both clinical programs and physical spaces.
“Supporting our patients during this stressful time is our number-one priority, and one way we can help is by removing the burden of travel to some extent, while maintaining the high level of care patients come to expect from Memorial Sloan Kettering,” said Richard Barakat, MD, FACS, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for the Regional Care Network and MSK Cancer Alliance. “The dedication of this space means our teams of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers can continue to deliver care that is personalized and patient-focused, compassionate, and efficient.”
MSK Commack now boasts more than 91,000 square feet of the latest technology and teams with the deepest expertise in caring for people with cancer. The facility offers some of the area’s most comprehensive cancer services and amenities in one location, including more than 40 cancer doctors covering multiple disciplines such as medical and radiation oncology, radiology, interventional radiology, and surgery.
Strong and Steady Demand
Over the years, it became evident that the footprint at MSK Commack needed to expand to meet growing demands. “Not long after this building was constructed, we realized the demand for our services was far greater than anticipated — and it became evident that our ability to deliver care optimally was only limited by space,” said Steve Sugarman, MD, Chief of the Medical Oncology Service at MSK Commack.
In 2015, MSK Commack clinical teams accommodated more than 33,800 visits, more than 36,000 chemotherapy and radiation oncology treatments, and more than 33,000 radiology studies. Based on external trends, such as the anticipated number of new cancer cases in Suffolk County and the aging of the population, it was anticipated that by 2026 the site could easily be accommodating more than 72,000 clinical visits and 41,000 radiology studies alone. “Such large numbers need to be supported by increased staffing and new spaces,” said Dr. Sugarman. “By expanding, we will be better able to serve the needs of our existing patients and see new patients quickly.”
Phase I Expansion – What’s New
The new addition is part of a three-phase construction and renovation plan set for completion next year. Expanded programming for patients includes the new state-of-the-art interventional radiology (IR) suite, pain management services, and the new clinical laboratory.
The IR suite is fully staffed by specially trained IR physicians who perform procedures using image guidance. These procedures include needle biopsies for accurate diagnosis and placement of venous access ports to make receiving chemotherapy and blood draws easier. The IR physicians will also offer consultative services.
“The IR suite at MSK Commack was constructed with patients’ comfort and quality of life in mind, yet the technology remains the most progressive on all of Long Island,” said Stephen Solomon, MD, Chief of MSK’s Interventional Radiology Service.
Pain management is another distinct new service for patients. Faculty are not only an integral part of the IR team but also will have separate office hours for supportive outpatient procedures. After visiting with pain management specialists, patients can obtain medicines from the new on-site pharmacy. Prior to the expansion, MSK patients traveled to Manhattan for these services.
The expanded clinical laboratory is another welcome addition. Here, advanced instruments that produce rapid results have been integrated, meaning blood work and other tests that were previously sent to Manhattan for processing and testing can now occur on-site, with most being completed within a few hours or less. This translates to significantly shorter wait times for patients and their doctors who require results from blood work before proceeding with or possibly making adjustments to planned treatment, such as chemotherapy.
“The department is excited to bring more robust laboratory services closer to patients at MSK Commack,” said Melissa Pessin, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine. “Our future plans include supporting scheduled red blood cell and platelet transfusions for MSK Commack patients as well.”
And with additional clinical space and other advanced technologies, patients now experience shorter wait times for things like mammograms, CT scans, and radiation treatment. They will also have even greater access to more MSK doctors, including surgeons with whom they can consult and visit after their surgery right at MSK Commack.
“We are equipped with the most advanced imaging and diagnostic technology available and unparalleled expertise in nursing, and as we move into the next phases, we’ll be expanding in other ways, too,” said Dr. Sugarman.
At MSK Commack, patients’ experiences will encompass the most personalized care and service to treat and support them throughout their journey, while providing many conveniences. Throughout the spaces, warm and comfortable finishes and furniture are incorporated. Common areas offer relaxing nooks or workstations to connect to complimentary Wi-Fi. The new second floor infusion area is completely modern and spacious yet warm and calming, with picturesque floor-to-ceiling windows and lush seating.
The infusion rooms are private, with floating glass doors, and feature lounger-side technology that gives patients complete control of everything from room temperature to entertainment selections, including Internet and cable TV access.
“Our strong desire to provide our patients with outstanding care for their cancer while experiencing the benefits of remaining closer to home for as much as their treatment journey as possible is present in everything we do, every day,” said Dr. Sugarman.
Advancing Care: Access to New Treatments Not Available Elsewhere
For the past century, MSK has been a leader in cancer care and research. Many treatments used today had their early start in MSK research labs and were later part of clinical trials our patients helped move forward.
Today, many MSK Commack patients are benefiting from the access they have to our robust clinical trial portfolio, including early-stage studies of novel targeted anticancer drugs. The second phase of the renovation and building plan will bring dedicated space for the clinical trials program including lab areas for processing specimens, workspaces for research nurses and study assistants, and changes to the pharmacy to accommodate additional research medications.
These changes will help support MSK’s long-term commitment to continuing to offer even more clinical trials to patients closer to where they live and work. “Because clinical trials are so critical in moving cancer research forward, and because a therapy being tested in a trial may be the most effective therapy available, offering patients the opportunity to participate is hugely significant,” said Dr. Sugarman. “With on-site staff and dedicated space, patients will have easier access to new treatments being studied while receiving their care and clinical trial follow-up close to home.”
Looking to the Future
Phase-two plans also include the construction of a dedicated rehabilitation suite for lymphedema therapy and other rehab services, a brand new breast imaging suite outfitted with the latest screening technology, and space for additional physician offices to support plans to increase the scope of surgical services at MSK Commack.
“As someone who has lived and raised his children on Long Island for the past 22 years, it gives me great pride to see how far MSK has come in providing nothing short of the best cancer care available for so many of my friends and neighbors,” said Dr. Barakat. “That commitment to excellence will be extended even further with our brand new facility in Uniondale, which will open in the fall of 2019. I couldn’t be more delighted to be involved in these efforts that will benefit numerous of my fellow Long Islanders for years to come.”