BERLIN – The community celebrated the opening of the new John H. “Jack” Burbage Regional Cancer Care Center at a ribbon cutting ceremony this week.
On Wednesday, hundreds of local residents, hospital officials, doctors and patients gathered at Atlantic General Hospital’s new cancer care center. The 18,000-square-foot facility, located in front of Atlantic General Hospital (AGH), offers services to patients dealing with cancer and blood disorders.
“I’d like to tell you what this cancer center means to me,” said Jack Burbage, co-chair of AGH’s Campaign for the Future. “It’s one word. Life.”
The cancer center opened in June after a year of construction. The state-of-the-art facility now offers an outpatient chemotherapy infusion center, hematology care and radiation oncology, among other services.
“We’re here today to continue the journey that started 25 years ago on this campus, by first building this hospital on the Esham dairy farm and now further expanding the convenient, compassionate and friendly quality care we’ve become known for in this community,” said Michael Franklin, president and CEO of AGH.
Franklin said that as the local population aged, hospital officials wanted to make sure AGH could meet the community’s growing need for cancer care.
“Twenty-five years ago only about 50 percent of the people treated for cancer would survive five years or more,” he said. “Now there have been so many changes and so many improvements it’s become more of a chronic illness. More than two thirds of the people diagnosed with cancer now survive cancer. That’s because of the way that technology has changed, medicine has changed, we can now treat people at home in their community doing things in a better way than we used to do it in the past.”
In the past, Franklin said the Eastern Shore had a 10 percent lower cancer survival rate than other areas because residents didn’t have easy access to care.
“We don’t have that problem anymore…,” he said. “We’re going to grow services associated with this program, associated with the hospital, that are going to continue to meet the needs of this growing community.”
Dr. Roopa Gupta, one of the physicians who works in the new center, praised the hospital’s supporters for making the facility a reality.
“We are so proud of this community for coming together and making this happen,” she said.
She said when people asked why the cancer center was needed, she told them that in addition to the prevalence of the disease, the Eastern Shore, as Franklin pointed out, had a lower cancer survival rate than other areas. She said that with the advances in medicine and technology, the center would be able to have a huge impact on the community.
“If there ever was a good time to do this it certainly is now,” Gupta said.
Hugh Cropper, chairman of AGH’s board of trustees, said Burbage had led the charge to bring the cancer center to Berlin. Burbage, who began his career working at the Style Guide clothing store in Berlin, built it into a chain of stores and purchased real estate throughout the region. He is now principal of Blue Water Development.
Cropper praised Burbage’s generosity.
“We stand here today celebrating the opening of this exciting new facility,” Cropper said. “It’s really caused by the leadership, generosity and mostly the perseverance of Jack. Jack has stuck with this cause throughout and he stayed with it until the doors opened today.”
Burbage, whose mother died of cancer when he was 11, thanked the community for its support of the hospital and the cancer center. He said he was honored and humbled to have the facility named for him.
“Although I am very appreciative of the recognition, I do not deserve it,” he said. “It belongs to you. To you, the people. I want you to be able to say ‘I made a difference’ and you have. This building can’t be built by any one, two, three, five people. It was built by a community, a community of people that care.”
He said the cancer center was another facility that allowed AGH to serve the community even better.
“Just think about the hospital and think about how many lives have been saved by having this hospital and not having to drive to Salisbury…,” he said. “How many people’s lives have been saved? If it’s just one, it’s worth it.”
When Michelle Fager, co-chair of AGH’s Campaign for the Future, was invited to speak, she said she just wanted to thank Burbage for his efforts in support of the cancer center.
“I’m just going to take this opportunity to thank my co-chair Jack Burbage and the entire Burbage family, not only for their generous donation that kicked off our fundraising efforts but also for their deep dedication to the well being of this community,” Fager said. “They really are a hard act to follow and they’re an inspiration to us all. We’re so lucky to have the Burbages here in our community.”
The John H. “Jack” Burbage Regional Cancer Care Center is one piece of AGH’s $10 million Campaign for the Future, which will eventually allow the hospital to complete $35 million in capital projects.