When the first cancer patients walk in to be treated at the brand new Phillips Family Cancer Center in Southampton May 6, many will be cutting hours of travel time out of their day for vital chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and will have access to participation in clinical trials close to home.

The cancer center, overseen by Stony Brook Medicine, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and the Stony Brook University Cancer Center, opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony the morning of April 25, just after receiving word on April 24 that the New York State Department of Health gave them the green light to open open up the radiation therapy center there. The center is expected to begin offering medical oncology services in August.

The $24 million cancer center became a reality in no small part due to a $9 million donation from Barbara Phillips and her family. Southampton Hospital, she has said, saved her mother-in-law’s life, and the Phillips family has provided funding for radiation treatment at the hospital going back decades.

“Years ago, we had the first cobalt radiation facility on the East End” thanks to the Phillips family, said Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Chief Administration Officer Robert Chaloner at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.  “This is a 30-year commitment by their family.”

Ms. Phillips modestly said a few words at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Her mother, she said, was on the board of St. Clare’s Hospital in Manhattan, where she was an advocate for a 100-bed AIDS treatment wing.

“People used to say to my mother, ‘why do you go there?’ These people are done,’” she said. “But my mother said, ‘no they are not done because they have hope. They have medicine. They have science on their side.’ And today, in fact, we know they are not done. People will live because of this wonderful thing.”

The 13,800-square-foot cancer center was designed by Bridgehampton architect Blaze Makoid, who took inspiration from potato barns that at one time were common sights on the East End, including on the County Road 39A site of the cancer center. 

Southampton Hospital Association Chairman Kenneth Wright, who had implored hospital officials to “not build another ugly hospital building,” said healthcare facilities architect Victor Famulari designed the interior spaces, which provide a comfortable and pleasant setting, with murals of natural East End spaces in private infusion stations, along with chemotherapy treatment spaces overlooking the organically kept grounds designed by Edwina Von Gal of the Perfect Earth Project.

The building isn’t just a pretty space. It is also houses some very high tech equipment, including the only Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator on the East End, which provides fast, precise radiation treatment. Integrated records and conference rooms are designed to allow doctors and radiation technicians in both Southampton and at the cancer center at Stony Brook University Hospital’s main campus to work together on treatment plans.

Dr. Yusuf Hannun, who serves as the director of the Stony Brook University Cancer Center, said the cancer center there builds on the university’s strength in a wide range of medical and scientific disciplines.

“This allows us to stay at the cutting edge, push the envelope, and make sure patients receive the best possible care,” he said.

“We have more than 100 specialized physicians, and more than 100 lab directors. How do we get that to work with Southampton? It’s not an easy riddle,” he added. “Most places have just not figured it out, but because of this integrated structure, our physicians will provide depth of backup either at Stony Brook or here.”

Dr. Samuel Ryu, who will be the medical director of the Phillips Family Cancer Center, said he plans to provide “a Ritz Carlton type of cancer service, in a very cosy and private environment.”

“It’s patient-centered, compassionate total cancer care. You can go to the Stony Brook main campus or come here, and all your records will be in both places. We are right here for you in our community.”

Fighting Chance, the Sag Harbor-based non-profit that helps patients and their families deal with the stress of a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery, will also have a presence in the cancer center to help patients with the mental stress of beating cancer.

“Most people come in within 48 hours of a diagnosis, with hopelessness and shell-shocked and they think they’re done,” said Fighting Chance founder Duncan Darrow in a video presentation at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We give them hope.”

The Phillips Family Cancer Center is located at 740 County Road 39A in Southampton, across from the BMW dealership just west of the intersection with Montauk Highway, and can be reached at 631.638.7400.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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