by Brenda Maceo
Aiming to create a single place where patients and families can turn for help in coping with cancer diagnosis and treatment, the Sheri & Les Biller Family Foundation has pledged $2 million to City of Hope to establish the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center.
The Biller Resource Center is a uniquely comprehensive model that will integrate and expand a wide range of patient support services at City of Hope. The center will feature “patient navigators,” specially trained, caring staff members who will reach out to each patient at City of Hope and serve as the patient’s personal contact. This bolstering of support services and one-on-one attention is unusual at a time when health care costs are increasing nationwide and providers are cutting back significantly on such services.
“City of Hope has a long-standing commitment to caring for the entire person, as reflected in its credo: ‘There is no profit in curing the body if, in the process, we destroy the soul,’” said Sheri Biller. “It’s what makes City of Hope unique and what makes it the right place for this kind of center.”
The services integrated in the Biller Resource Center range from health education, psychological services and support groups to healing arts programs, including art and music programs. The center also will offer patients and their family members support through programs such as end-of-life and bereavement care.
Central to the patients’ experience at the Biller Resource Center will be the patient navigators. Starting in May, patient navigators will contact City of Hope patients before their treatment begins and orient them to appropriate services and resources.
“The patient navigators will be a single, human face that patients will know they can call when they have a question or a need,” said Biller. “As I have experienced loved ones going through cancer treatment, I have always wished for this type of individual. Patients and their family members need one person they can turn to and rely on. We feel fortunate that we can now help make it a reality for City of Hope patients.”
Biller, who also is vice chair of the board of directors at City of Hope, said she spent almost a year researching similar patient resource centers at institutions throughout the country. A multidisciplinary team from City of Hope, including Annette Mercurio, manager of patient, family and community education, accompanied Biller on visits to several of those centers.
“Many cancer centers had components of what we were looking for,” said Biller, “but we feel as though we have come up with the best of those offerings. Ours is a truly comprehensive approach.”
Jim S. Miser, M.D., chief executive officer and chief medical officer of City of Hope National Medical Center, said that the idea for this type of center had been identified and discussed for many years.
“We are excited about the possibilities this brings to our patients,” said Miser. “We are also blessed and grateful that Sheri and Les Biller have this strong commitment to the care we give our patients. They have been true partners with us in the creation of the center.”
The Biller Resource Center will be located in the east side of the lobby of the Medical Center’s main entrance. Now in the early design phase, the 3,000 square-foot space will include a garden atrium, seating lounges, private counseling spaces, an activity room for support groups and classes, a patient/family library and a meditation room.
Among the other benefits to City of Hope patients, the Biller Center will expand support groups and develop a peer support network that will link patients with others undergoing similar experiences.
“The Biller Resource Center will play an instrumental role in expanding the healing tools available to patients and their families,” said Mercurio.
To promote better communication between patients and care providers about complementary and alternative medicine, the Biller Resource Center will offer education on these therapies to physicians and other health professionals, as well as to patients and community members. These educational programs will be designed to help patients and their care providers make better informed choices about complementary and alternative therapy options.
An administrative director will head the Biller Center and will report to Larry Kidd, R.N., vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nurse executive. The interim leadership team includes Miser, Mercurio and Yu-Ting “Ting Ting” Yuan, professional services administrator.
“The Billers have provided us with an incredible gift,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer of City of Hope, “not only in terms of their generosity, but more importantly because of their compassion toward patients and the ability to see how they could positively impact the well-being of those patients.”
Sheri Biller has been on the board of directors for City of Hope since July 2000 and serves on the nominating and development committees. She and her husband, Les Biller, established and administer the Biller Family Foundation, which supports causes such as the arts, education and medical research. Les Biller is a 30-year veteran of the banking industry, most recently serving as vice chairman and chief operating officer of Wells Fargo & Co. until his retirement in 2002.