NIH Dedicates New Clinical Research Center
On September 22, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) celebrated the completion of the new Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center. Government officials, current and former NIH patients and their families, and NIH staff filled the circular Science Court atrium. The patients sat toward the front of the room next to their NIH physicians.
After a welcome by Clinical Center Director Dr. John Gallin, NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni said, "This is a day of dedication and a new contract with medical research at the beginning of the 21st century." Dr. Zerhouni acknowledged the stakeholders who have made the Clinical Center what it is, including members of Congress who have supported medical research, the NIH staff and construction crew, and the more than 350,000 patients who have participated in clinical trials on the Bethesda campus.
The 870,000 square-foot Hatfield Center connects to the existing Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center, which opened in 1953. With the addition of the Hatfield Center, the Clinical Center Complex now covers 40 acres and is the largest clinical research center in the world. The center is named in honor of former Senator Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), who served in Congress for 30 years and provided steadfast support for NIH and clinical research.
The Hatfield Center will open with approximately 240 inpatient beds and 80 day-hospital stations. Labs and patient rooms are highly flexible in their design and can be quickly adapted to meet new requirements and changing priorities. Laboratory and office moves are currently underway. Patients will move into the new hospital in December.
Former patient Susan Lowell Butler shared her story at the dedication ceremony. Ms. Butler was diagnosed with simultaneous breast and ovarian cancer 9 years ago, and was treated through a National Cancer Institute (NCI) trial. She recalled when doctors estimated her odds of 2-year survival at less than 20 percent. But Ms. Butler did not give up hope. "I remember how excited I was, calling family and friends and telling them that I'd been accepted into a clinical trial," she said. "Pretty soon, this place felt just like home." Ms. Butler also thanked the researchers who worked with her during her treatment and said, "It really is the family of man in all its glory and misery...here in the house of hope."
Representative C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced Senator Hatfield.
"Only 5 days in my life have been more exciting than today," Senator Hatfield said, citing the day he got married and the days when his four children were born. He praised the vision, skills, and perseverance of the craftsmen, advocates, scientists, researchers, mentors, staff, patients, and families who had worked to bring the dream of the clinical research center to reality.
"We are making progress against the top three killers: stroke, heart, and cancer, yet there is more work to be done," he said. "As my friend Mary Lasker used to say, 'If you think research is expensive, try disease.'"
The program concluded with the unveiling of a brass plaque and portrait dedicating the center to Senator Hatfield.
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson wrapped up the dedication ceremony by noting that "The Hatfield Center represents an important investment in science and treatment on behalf of the American people. Through its doors will come patients who, in partnership with NIH's doctors, nurses, and researchers, will try to find answers to some of the most perplexing questions in medicine."