By LARRY ROBINSON
The former president and CEO of Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center was on hand Wednesday to help dedicate the opening of the Richard E. Winter Cancer Treatment Center’s new $4.7 million radiation oncology wing, where he praised those involved with the project for helping create what he said was a near-miraculous convergence of hurting and healing.
”It is a privilege of our profession when we see the hurting and the healing come together,” said Mark A. Webster. “And this gives us a new tool that has been amply and very well described by many of our speakers, which allows us to combat something that doesn’t fight fair at all, and never has fought fairly. So we need as much as we can to compete against it.”
Mr. Webster, who made the trip from Cortland Regional Medical Center where he now serves as hospital president, was one of dozens of people on hand and one of several speakers who played a part in helping make the new cancer treatment wing a reality.
The wing’s dedication coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Richard E. Winter Cancer Treatment Center. The facility’s new 3,264-square-foot wing is home to a multifunctional Varian Trilogy linear accelerator that will allow doctors to direct radiation more precisely at cancerous tumors. The procedure will drastically reduce the number of treatments needed for some forms of cancer and is precise and sensitive enough to target an area of cancer half the thickness of a dime, leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed, according to those in attendance. In particular the new equipment will allow doctors to treat certain brain and lung cancers for which there has been no treatment available in the north country.
Mr. Webster made a large, undisclosed donation to the center’s fundraising campaign in memory of his wife’s sister, who died from a fast-spreading form of lung cancer. He encouraged others in the community to also give generously if they haven’t already, and used the impending July 4 weekend to drive home the point that many Americans seem to have forgotten the premise that through giving comes personal and spiritual reward.
“There is in our country, truly, a rarity of charity,” Mr. Webster said. “In fact as we celebrate independence week in this country, I would argue that our country, and most of the people that we are surrounded by, are in pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of possessions. And that’s not really what life is all about. So I want to challenge people to get out of their comfort zone, whether it is giving to this campaign or your church or synagogue, or other very worthwhile organizations. I think many people lead much shallower lives than they should because they are holding too tightly onto possessions.”
The cancer center at Claxton-Hepburn is the only one in the region recognized by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Radiology, according to hospital officials. The facility also has received accreditation through the American College of Surgeons for its breast health center, which employs leading-edge techniques and technologies in the detection and treatment of breast cancer.
Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said the latest addition at the Richard E. Winter Cancer Treatment center is an example of what a community can accomplish when people share a common vision of helping others.
“It is comfortable, compassionate care close to home,” she said. “That’s what they offer here. And and that takes a whole level of concern and weight off the patients’ shoulders to know that they can get the best treatment that is available. This community and this hospital and those that support it have worked so hard to make sure that they stay one step ahead. It is truly phenomenal.”
Ogdensburg Mayor William D. Nelson said Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center and the Richard E. Winter Cancer Treatment Center are irreplaceable parts of the city and provide a level of care that touches lives far beyond the community’s municipal boundaries.
“People used to have to drive to Kingston, Burlington or Syracuse,” Mr. Nelson said. “Over the past 20 years it has been a progressive center where we have excellent physicians, and the hospital has always maintained exceptional equipment. They have always had the foresight to bring the latest technology to the community to ensure that we give the best cancer care to our residents, not only of Ogdensburg but of the surrounding St. Lawrence County and the region.”