Memphis Daily News
By: Aisling Maki
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is moving forward with the construction of its new seven-story tower, which will serve as a new patient care and research building with space for a number of new programs, surgery suites, an expanded intensive care unit and a revolutionary proton-beam therapy center.
The hospital recently filed a $5 million building permit application with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement to begin work on the tower at 315 Danny Thomas Place, next to the Chili’s Care Center.
The description on the permit says it is part of a fast-track project for a seven-story addition to an existing building and covers “the building’s concrete mat foundation and under-mat drainage system.”
St. Jude in May applied with the state Health Services and Development Agency for a Certificate of Need for a $190 million medical tower, $110 million of which is the project’s construction cost.
“All the design work should be done by September,” said John Curran, director of design and construction at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who said ground has already been broken on the project.
The tower will serve as both a patient care center and research facility.
“We have two surgery operatories,” Curran said. “We can’t expand it where it is. We have eight ICU rooms and they’re going on 20 years old, so we’re building replacement departments for both. There will be three surgery operatories, and the ICU rooms will be state-of-the-art, larger and more family-centered care. For all of our patient rooms, we build a connecting parent room. So if you’re a patient here, you’re also assigned a parent room. That’s part of our family-centered care model that, to our knowledge, no one else in the world has done.”
The first floor will have a new auditorium called the Global Education Collaboration Center, which will hold about 420 people. St. Jude’s existing auditorium holds just less than 300 people.
The tower will feature conference rooms and another small teaching auditorium.
“It will be a place for scientific collaboration that we don’t have now,” Curran said.
Construction is expected to last about 36 months.
“And then the last year is really making the proton therapy system work,” Curran said. “That proton therapy piece takes up to a year to calibrate until it’s ready for patients.”
The proton-beam therapy center housed in the tower will provide treatment for inpatient and outpatient pediatric cancer patients.
“We’re the only pediatric institution that has its own (proton-beam therapy) in the world,” Curran said. “It will only deliver radiation to the specific tumor that we want it to radiate. It will not destroy surrounding tissue.”
That’s especially important in treating children with brain and spinal tumors to potentially avoid interference with development, growth and cognitive functioning.
“I mean, this is incredible stuff,” Curran said. “It’s a wonderful story to be told in and of itself, and it’s being built just for kids, right here in Memphis. There are a handful of these facilities in the world, and we’re going to be one of them.”