UIHC unveils new stem cell transplant and therapy unit

Starting Monday, all 15 current stem cell transplant patients will be moved into the new unit.

A new unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will soon open to cancer patients undergoing stem cell transplants and therapy.

UIHC is the only hospital in the state with a stem cell therapy and transplant unit, but the current 15-bed unit was roughly 35-years-old, and, therefore, outdated. Doctors said the new $15 million unit will ensure the most up-to-date technology and care for patients.

"For me what's most exciting is both the technical advances and the comfort advances," said Dr. George Weiner, Director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Weiner said the new unit has 24-beds and will be more efficient for undergoing stem cell transplants.

"And more recently, an area called cellular therapy where we actually take immune system cells, modify them so they fight the cancer and give them back to patients," he said. "These rooms are bigger. The machines that help collect the blood cells can be moved into the rooms."

The rooms will also work harder to keep germs away from patients.

"These rooms have state of the art air filtration systems," said Weiner.

Staff said they wanted this unit to do more than treat cancer, but they also wanted the unit be a better hospital experience for the patients.

"[The patients] had a say in the great improvements that we made in this space for them," said Nurse Manager Shannon Hunger.

Hunger said patients wanted windows and more natural lighting than they had before. Also, the unit incorporated technology to communicate with family members who cannot make it to the hospital. The unit will have more space to move around and an exercise room for post-transplant therapy.

Some other aesthetics include unique paintings on the walls.

"Helping it not look so much like a hospital, so disguising the garbage can, and disguising the dirty linen," said Hunger.

Staff said they already achieved 4,000 transplants in their old unit and are confident many more will take place in the new facility.

"We did our best to design these rooms in a way so that 5 and 10 years from now, we'll be able to use them for even better cancer therapies that are currently being developed in our research labs," said Weiner.

Starting Monday, all 15 current transplant patients will be moved into the new unit.

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