Liberty County Regional Medical Center announced the opening of the Curtis & Elizabeth Anderson Institute during a Thursday evening grand opening reception.
About 50 people were in attendance, including local dignitaries Mayor Jim Thomas and County Commissioner Connie Thrift.
“We’re glad to have everyone here and we’re glad to be a part of this,” Thomas said. “It is a pleasure to see the hospital grow in this fashion.”
Thrift agreed with the mayor, saying, “It is comforting to know we have a center like this in Liberty County.”
LRMC CEO Scott Kroell said that patients may make appointments with physicians for initial diagnosis and chemotherapy. Doctors may also be able to do follow-ups and rehabilitation on site so patients who are ill do not have to drive to Savannah.
“When you see someone who has cancer and they’re just so sick, it makes you hurt,” Kroell said. “Knowing they don’t have to drive to Savannah to see an oncologist makes my job worthwhile.”
However, patients who require more intensive care services may be transferred “under the orders of their physician to a Savannah facility,” said Rene’ Harwell, director of marketing for LRMC.
Currently, the Anderson Cancer Institute at LRMC is in the Liberty Regional Medical Center office building on the hospital’s campus. The office is in suite 105 at 455 S. Main St. in Hinesville.
Kroell said if the center is successful, it may become a separate entity from the hospital building. The hospital is accepting patients at this time for treatment.
The CEO and the seven hospital board members looked at three other sites to partner with that were “geographically close enough and physicians said, by far, Memorial [University Medical Center in Savannah] was the best,” Kroell told the crowd.
The main surgical oncologists who will see patients include Dr. Steven Brower, Dr. James Garber and Dr. Christopher Senkowski.
Brower specializes in complex cancers of the esophagus, liver, pancreas and gastrointestinal tract. Garber specializes in melanoma and sarcoma, thoracic, esophageal, pancreatic and hepatobiliary conditions. Senkowski specializes in esophageal, pancreas, liver, spleen and adrenal cancers, Harwell said.
“ACI will work directly with Dr. George Negrea of Low Country Cancer Care Associates and members of the Medical Staff of Liberty Regional to provide cancer treatment such as chemotherapy infusion,” Harwell said.
The Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia in Athens helped direct hospital board members in setting up the cancer institute program at LRMC, Will Darsey, secretary for the hospital of the board said.
Establishing ACI also was a direct part of the board’s strategic plan, Darsey said, and was discussed at every board meeting for almost the past year before anything was implemented to open the program.
“[Fanning Institute] is an academic based and research-based facility program that collects data and analyzes data and provides guidance on what the public wants and what the problems will be and how to solve those problems,” he said.
Darsey recently lost a family member to cancer and said he understands there is a need for such an institute in Liberty County.
“We’re excited to see Liberty County residents have this,” he said. “It’s a step of growth. We’ve been operating on a strategic plan to make this a reality.”
Curtis and Elizabeth “Libba” Anderson, founders of the original institute, felt the impact cancer had on their friends who left the area to search for the best cancer treatment. As a result, they worked with Memorial University Medical Center to fight cancer and develop a center in Savannah.
“Curtis and Libba continue to advocate and raise funds for cancer treatment and research programs. They have helped to recruit some of the finest doctors and scientists to the region. The team at Memorial Health University Medical Center feels extremely blessed and proud to be associated with the Andersons, and we cannot thank them enough for their kindness,” according to the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial University Medical Center website.
The public is invited to attend the next Hospital Authority board meeting to learn more about LRMC’s work and progress. Meetings are at 1:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month.
For appointments or referrals, call 877-224-8515.