|The Write Space and Time|
Oct. 17, 2011 -- It prevents scatter. Ultimately that's what it does, he said, as we stood in the bowels of a medical marvel, otherwise known as the future proton therapy room at the University of Oklahoma's Stephenson Cancer Center. Enough concrete was poured into that room alone to build a sidewalk from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. The walls and the ceiling have to be able to support the 17 ton `rolling pin' that will expel its magic behind the veil of a sheet rocked wall. But the walls and the ceiling don't just act as support beams. They act as a bulletproof vest of sorts as well. Except they don't keep bullets out, they keep protons in. And they keep them focused. They prevent scatter. I cannot help but love the way that sounds.
I had an amazing tour last week of the Charles and Peggy Stephenson Cancer Center on the University of Oklahoma's medical campus. It made me proud to be an Oklahoman, prouder yet to work for this visionary institution, and, simultaneously, it made me feel like an insignificant gnat. Talk about doing stuff that matters. As we walked I kept thinking about Evan Parks' campaign slogan in the movie "Evan Almighty": "Change the World!" Only these people in Oklahoma City didn't wave a banner and chant a promise, they just did it. They literally changed the world for thousands upon thousands of cancer patients and their families. And they have raised the bar for excellence in cancer care unequivocally.
Back to the scatter. There is none here, anywhere. As we move throughout the facility, every facet has a purpose. The open circle and the closed circle, architectural elements that have been bastions of meaning for people of varying cultures for millions of years, flank the stairwell that spans the four-tier building. Focus. Intention. Along one hallway the flooring starts out sandstone, then it transitions into carpet, then it rolls into end cut mesquite. You get the feeling the unified dissonance is a deliberate oxymoron. Simple things happen here. Complex things happen here. The road will be littered with the unexpected. See it through, the building whispers. Seam it together. Fight the scatter.
The main floor lobby of the place can trick you. I thought I was at the Four Seasons. No kidding. As you enter the building a player piano beckons you toward conversational groupings of massive living room furniture. There are couches and rugs and end tables and lamps. Gone are the "doctor's office" copies of magazines strewn across the tables. They've been replaced by bookshelves full of all kinds of books--the real kind like you find in a library. Gone are the white walls; there's not a single one on the site. They have thought of everything. The architects of this concept have built for patients and for families, specifically those that travel in tribes like we tend to in Oklahoma, and they have constructed for them a haven armed with ammo of the strongest sort.
Their concept for care at the Stephenson Cancer Center is all encompassing. This building is your one stop shop. Think Super Target for cancer war. The specialists gather for the patients; the patients don't scatter for the specialists. There's that word again. They just don't allow it here. It's against their unified grain.
And the best part of this all is that they're so far from satisfied. The entire fourth floor is dedicated to research. The doctors aren't OK with the survival numbers they see, and they will not settle until the news is better. So they devote their time and their energy and their passion to re-writing the script. They are focused. No stray bullets. No leaky edges. Purposeful, intentional, laser-like work toward a narrow end. An absence of scatter. Oh the power of that which cannot be diffused.