NIAGARA FALLS — For Carol Faccini, Margaret Tretter and John Grabriele, Thursday was a bell-ringing day.
The three Niagara County cancer patients sounded a symbolic chime on the Bell of Hope at the entrance to the new Golisano Medical Oncology Center in what was once the fourth-floor cardiac care unit of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
"I hope each patient coming through these doors finds the same attitude I did," said Facciini, a four-time cancer survivor from the Town of Niagara. "Having the care here is so convenient."
The construction of the $2 million, 6,085-square-foot facility, which is part of the Roswell Park Care Network, was largely financed by a $1.5 million donation from philanthropist and businessman Tom Golisano.
"That we have this here now is astonishing," said James Roscetti, chair of Memorial Medical Center's board of directors.
Memorial President and CEO Joseph Ruffolo said the cancer care center is the culmination of an 18-year dream that began when he first took over at NFMMC in November 2002.
"I showed our board the horrific cancer rates in Niagara County," Ruffolo recalled. "I said, 'Wouldn't it be great if we could partner with Roswell Park and provide cancer services here?' This is a landmark day for local health care."
Candace Johnson, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center president and CEO, said the partnership with Memorial will help save lives.
"We want to make a difference in Niagara County," Johnson said. "we want to be here to help this community because this is a population that has been disproportionately affected by cancer. We're here to save lives and that's what we're going to do."
The oncology center will make Roswell Park’s expertise in such areas as hematology, chemotherapy infusion and the newest cancer treatments, including immunotherapies, readily accessible to Niagara County residents.
“The expert cancer care provided at this new center is welcome news for all Niagara County residents and directly addresses health disparity issues that historically have impacted African Americans, Native Americans, people with mental health issues and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Ruffolo said. "People who live and work in Niagara County will be able to receive expert cancer care right in downtown Niagara Falls. No longer will a lack of transportation to Roswell's Buffalo campus be a barrier to care."
For Golisano, who previously funded the construction of Memorial's Center for Community Health, which also bears his name, the new oncology center will provide badly needed care to those who need it most.
“(Memorial and Roswell) have made a commitment to inclusive health(care) for all including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities who often fall through the cracks of complex health care systems and specialty care, including early detection, cancer screening and treatment," Golisano said in a prepared statement.