Sculpture, artwork in cancer center reflect outdoors

The artist, Steinfeld with her sculpture, which was installed July 9. Photo by Susan Kahn.

The artist, Ellen Steinfeld with her sculpture, which was installed July 9. Photo by Susan Kahn.

Sculptor Ellen Steinfeld was focused on creating something that would be welcoming and uplifting, representative of life and hope. When she finished, she had created a shimmery “Tree of Hope” model out of stainless steel.

previewHer work was chosen as the sculpture that will greet patients, visitors and staff at the cancer center entrance, several yards from the main Upstate University Hospital entrance.

“It’s like a tree, but it’s very abstracted. I tried to have the whole image personify the universal symbol of well-being,” says Steinfeld, of Buffalo. She says admirers “can read into it what they want. There is, like, a bird at the top symbolizing flight, or hope. Some of the exterior shapes can be symbolic of a heart or a person.”

Shapes were cut from sheets of steel like dress patterns are cut from fabric. Photo by Susan Kahn.

Shapes were cut from sheets of steel like dress patterns are cut from fabric. Photo by Susan Kahn.

Once Steinfeld made her design, she had raw steel shipped to a factory for a special finish that removes steel’s natural dullness. She worked with a computer-aided design programmer to create a cutting pattern. The shapes were cut using a precision waterjet cutting machine.

Then Steinfeld worked with a fabricator at the old Bethlehem Steel mill in Lackawanna to assemble the tree.

The tree is about 7 feet tall and will be mounted on a pedestal. In daylight, the sun will provide subtle variations in color. Lights at night “will produce much more dramatic and magical effects,” she says.

Both of Steinfeld’s parents died from cancer. So have many of her friends. “Art is part of the healing process, as far as I’m concerned,” she says. “Art is the living life. It represents life. That’s why it’s so important.”

The sculpture in front of the cancer center was welded at a foundry in Buffalo.

The sculpture in front of the cancer center was welded at a foundry in Buffalo. Photo by Susan Kahn.

Meet three more artists:

marius.bugMarius Dumitran

Of East Syracuse

Works: Photographs of plants, landscapes, trees and birds. An architect, he has been the senior project manager for the cancer center.

Background: “I used to be a painter. My passion for photography basically began when I wanted to learn more about painting clouds, because they are so elusive. From clouds, I jumped to flowers.”

Context: “It is proven psychologically that nature gives us a certain balance and refuge. That’s why many cancer centers try to set themselves in natural environments.”

GiehlMary Giehl

of Syracuse

Work: 4-foot wide wall installation called “Under a Microscope,” crocheted from sewing thread. Each circle takes about 45 minutes to craft. The finished product is mounted with insect pins.

Inspiration: algae. When people look at her work, “I’m hoping that they will think of organisms. Will they think of algae? Probably not. But the name ‘Under the Microscope’ will give them the direction of looking at cells or organisms.”

Context: She worked for 20 years as a nurse at Upstate University Hospital, caring for patients in the emergency department and the adult and pediatric intensive care units. She cared for children with cancer. And four years ago, she lost her brother to kidney cancer.

touchetteMMary Touchette

of DeWitt

Works: Semi abstract watercolors with mixed media called “Queen’s Lace” and “Pussy Willows.”

Message: “I would certainly hope my art would give people a connection with God our maker and to give them strength to get through. Cancer is a terrible thing to have to experience.”

Context: Her infant daughter, Ann was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in 1976 and treated at University Hospital until her death in 1983. Later, her brother died from lung cancer.

 Read a new magazine, Cancer Care

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Learn about the cancer center preview

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Growing a 4-season healing garden for the cancer center

Trees and plants were installed in June in the healing garden. Below right: landscape architect Diane Burkard talks with Martin Cleaver of ProScapes. Photo by William Mueller.

Trees and plants were installed in June in the healing garden. Photo by William Mueller.

Patients receiving infusions gaze through windows at the foliage of a four-season garden growing on the roof of the Upstate Cancer Center’s second floor. Visitors may rest on its benches. The space feels like a courtyard, with the cancer center on one side, a computer warehouse behind, and Upstate University Hospital on the other.

preview“It’s quite warm and sunny there,” says Danielle Carr, the project manager at Environmental Design & Research who oversaw the garden project.

One challenge was to choose plants that will be ornamental, even through Central New York winters. Add to that the challenge of planting on a roof. “The weight of everything and the cultural conditions are different on a roof,” says project designer Diane Burkard, also of EDR. “The growing conditions are more challenging and more severe, and the extremes of heat and cold are greater.”

She says that evergreens of various colors are included, along with plants that have interesting bark. “We have river birch and red twig dogwood, and we have different junipers. We have some Japanese maple in there. Those have a beautiful outline. The form of the tree is graceful.”

Around the trees are plants that do not grow tall and that offer variety in color and texture, says Carr.

“There are seasonal changes from early spring vegetative growth, to flowering, to colorful fall foliage. With the grasses and the perennials, there is movement. A gentle breeze will move things around so it’s not static.”

Such a peaceful space will appeal to those seeking respite — plus the birds that are part of nature.

Landscape architect Diane Burkard talks with Martin Cleaver of ProScapes. Photo by William Mueller

Landscape architect Diane Burkard talks with Martin Cleaver of ProScapes. Photo by William Mueller


Plant your own

Planting a seasonal Central New York garden means finding plants that provide interest throughout the year. This list–from Environmental Design & Research’s Diane Burkard, who designed the rooftop healing garden for the Upstate Cancer Center –includes spring bulbs, summer flowering perennials, fall blooming grasses and evergreens that provide structure and a backdrop for other plants during their growing season.


Anemone blanda (Windflower)

Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty’ (Spring Beauty Wood Squill)

Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)


Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (Cranesbill)

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ (Goldsturm Black-eyed Susan)

Hemerocallis ‘Pardon Me’ (Pardon Me Daylily)


Amsonia hibrichtii (Threadleaf Blue Star)

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama Grass)

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ (Shenandoah Switch Grass)


Juniperus sabina ‘Buffalo’ (Buffalo Savin Juniper)

Cornus stolonifera ‘Farrow’ (Arctic Fire Red-twig Dogwood)

Betula nigra ‘Heritage’ (Heritage River Birch)

Listen to a radio program about the Upstate Cancer Center

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Nature theme provides refuge during cancer care

AmeriCUWhen you set out to design a cancer center, “there is a level of hopefulness that you want to communicate,” says architect Saul Jabbawy. “Where does hope come from? Hope comes from being in a great medical facility. A cutting-edge modern look reassures people of the level of care they’re going to receive.”

previewAt the same time, you want a calm environment that will help people feel relaxed.

That was the challenge for Jabbawy and the design team. He is the director of design for EwingCole, the architectural and engineering design firm for the construction of the Upstate Cancer Center.

“You never really get away from the fact that you’re struggling with cancer, but you want an environment that creates a level of visual stimulation that allows people to escape,” he says.

Exterior view of Cancer CenterThe gleaming blue glass-fronted building connects to Upstate University Hospital, sharing the circular drive entrance and a canopy-covered drop-off area. It consolidates outpatient cancer services for adults and children under one roof — and overlooking a four-season healing garden.

One of the first construction tasks was creating concrete bunkers up to 5 feet thick to house the sophisticated linear accelerators used in radiation oncology. While an integral piece of a modern cancer center, the equipment can be intimidating. So Jabbawy was mindful to create distractions.

A nature theme carries throughout the Cancer Center, and vibrant colors are juxtaposed against a white background in many hallways. Where possible, medical necessities are downplayed. For instance, “in infusion, we tucked all the sinks away so when you walk into the corridor the first thing you see is not a sink.”

The first thing you see is the garden, planted with foliage that will provide interest all four seasons. The infusion area is divided into an area for adults, and an area with zones for teens and children. The building contains rooms for medical exams and genetic, financial and other counseling services, plus a family resource center.

A grand staircase in the front of the lobby is meant to promote physical activity, although elevators are nearby.

Saul Jabbawy

Saul Jabbawy

Marius Dumitran

Marius Dumitran

Surrounding the outside of the building are narrow vertical windows against subtle horizontal lines, a feature that was deliberated for months, says Upstate’s Marius Dumitran, the senior project manager for the Cancer Center.

“If you look at that façade, it’s almost like musical notes in abstract,” he explains.

Let your mind conjure a song about hope.

Learn about the public preview

Learn about cancer care at Upstate

Read the new Cancer Care publication

Listen to a radio program about the Upstate Cancer Center


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What it takes to write a children’s book

Author Janine Werchinski-Yates says the book has been shipped to 16 states, plus five countries, including Canada, Mongolia, Ghana, Sweden and Germany.

Author Janine Werchinski-Yates says the book has been shipped to 16 states, plus five countries, including Canada, Mongolia, Ghana, Sweden and Germany.

Janine Werchinski-Yates of Baldwinsville appreciates exercising the creative side of her brain. “I’ve always liked writing,” she says. “I think it’s a nice release to get your ideas out there and use your imagination.”

The Upstate University Hospital laboratory technologist recently published a children’s book called “The Secret Sock Club.” Here’s what it took:

* The idea emerged from time spent in Laundromats. “I saw this little sock peeking out from under a clothes dryer, and I said ‘oh, that’s where they go,’ ” Yates says. Then her imagination conjured the Secret Sock Club.

* The time investment was about six years, start to finish. “It’s a learning curve to try to figure out how to get this together and make it happen.”

 * The illustrator, Michael Conway was the elementary school art teacher for Yates’ children. She had not seen him in a few years and then, at a time when she was frustrated by her search for an illustrator, she ran into him four times in one week.

At the Baldwinsville Public Library, she asked him, “Why do we keep seeing each other?”

“I don’t know,” he responded. “Do you have an art project or something?”

“Actually, I do,” she said. It turned out, Conway had always wanted to illustrate a book.

“The Secret Sock Club” sells for $15.99. Author Janine Werchinski-Yates says the book has been shipped to 16 states, plus five countries, including Canada, Mongolia, Ghana, Sweden and Germany.

“The Secret Sock Club” sells for $15.99. 

Yates was looking for an illustration with an old fashioned, comic feel, and Conway’s sketches were right on. “He’s really, really good at getting the emotions out of these socks,” she says.

* The cost of self publishing goes beyond the price of printing. There is also the cost of copyediting and layout, cover design and page illustrations, marketing and distribution, along with the fees to obtain the copyright, barcode and Internationl Standard Book Number. Depending on the number of copies and quality of materials, you may spend as little as $500 or more than $20,000.

* The assistance Yates needed, she got mostly from family members. Her oldest daughter, Francesca fine-tuned Yates’ language and helped edit the copy. Her youngest daughter, Ellie made suggestions about the story. Her son, Harrison set up her website at Her sister, Rose put her in touch with someone who designed the book.

“I’ve had a lot of help, really, and a lot of good luck – which is sort of the theme of the book.”

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Walking program helps Upstate earn American Heart award

On hand to receive the award from the American Heart Association's Michael DiGiovani (holding plaque) are Bruce Simmons, MD, Gregory Eastwood, MD, Deborah Hermann, registered dietitian Terry Podolak, and John McCabe, MD.

On hand to receive the award from the American Heart Association’s Michael DiGiovani (holding plaque) are Bruce Simmons, MD, Gregory Eastwood, MD, Deborah Hermann, registered dietitian Terry Podolak, and John McCabe, MD.

Upstate Medical University received the American Heart Association Gold Fit-Friendly Award for the second year in a row. The awards are given to American companies that take steps to make their employees’ health and wellness a top priority. Upstate encourages walking and provides walking routes; walking is said to have the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity.

Also this year, Upstate fielded the largest team (571 members) and raised the most money ($37,966) for the American Heart Association’s annual Heart Walk.


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Caregiver Advice: How to make a home ‘senior safe’

Some practical advice from Upstate’s Marjorie Libling, a social worker specializing in geriatrics, for making your senior loved one’s home safe:

In the bathroom:

* Use a nonslip rubber mat for the tub, and also for the floor outside of the tub. Avoid loose towels or rugs on the floor, to reduce the chance of slipping.

* Install grab bars in the bathing area, and invest in a proper shower stool that has rubber feet and a nonskid surface.

* Use a doorknob that cannot be locked, or one that can be unlocked from either side, in case your loved one suddenly needs assistance.

* Label the faucets “hot” and “cold,” and check the water temperature to make sure it is not hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

MH900448501* Encourage your loved one to bring a phone or a medical alert system into the bathroom with them in case they need help.

* Get a weekly pill box or mechanical medication dispenser so your loved one does not have to open multiple pill bottles each day.

In the kitchen:

* Disconnect the stove if your loved one lives alone and is developing memory problems.

* Use coffee makers or electric kettles that shut off automatically, and label “on” and “off” clearly on any appliances.

* Sheath knives in a drawer or store them safely in a block.

* Move cleaners and chemicals to another room to reduce the chance of mixing them with food products.

* Check perishables every week so your loved one doesn’t consume something that has spoiled.

* Keep high protein healthy snacks visible, as a reminder to eat.

* Dilute wine with water or swap it with nonalcoholic beverages to reduce your loved one’s alcohol intake. Alcohol does not mix well with memory impairment, an unsteady gait and prescription medications.

In the bedroom / living room:

* Consider guard rails that can help your loved one get in and out of bed.

* Minimize blankets and pillows on the bed, so there is less to fall off, and keep floors uncluttered to reduce the risk of tripping.

* Label drawers and closets with the clothing items they contain.

* Tuck away power cords.

* Label remote controls with simple “on” and “off” instructions.

* Replace any burnt out light bulbs, and strategically place automatic nightlights in outlets to assure safe navigation at night.

* Use rug pads or tack down rugs with nails to help prevent falls.

* If your loved one refuses to quit smoking, establish one “safe” smoking spot that is away from the bed, the stove and any chemicals.

* Consider taking control of bank and credit accounts. Television shopping networks can become an addiction, and your loved one may find it impossible to say no to telemarketers.

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What to do for chest pain

Chest pain is one of the primary reasons people seek care at a hospital emergency room, and it can signal a variety of medical conditions, says William Paolo, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Upstate University Hospital.

Among the most serious is a heart attack or acute coronary syndrome. Differentiating heart attack-induced chest pain from other types of chest pain is tricky.

“Your heart doesn’t have the same kind of nerves as your skin does. With your skin, when you have pain you can pinpoint where that is; that’s called somatic pain. When you have heart pain or pain in your internal organs, that is innervated by a different system; that’s called visceral pain. It’s very vague and nonspecific, more generalized. Sometimes you’ll feel like it’s in the middle of your chest, sometimes in your neck.”

Doctors pay attention to associated symptoms, as well. Is the person sweating, nauseous or short of breath?

Paolo says it’s simple: If you have chest pain you have never experienced before, get to the hospital emergency room.

If you are with someone who suffers chest pain:

  • sit them down and make sure they do not exert themselves,
  • call 911 for an ambulance, so that paramedics will be able to start treatment, and
  • consider giving the person an aspirin, a blood thinner, as long as they are not allergic.

Listen to this interview on HealthLink on Air radio.


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July: A great month for ribbon-cuttings and new buildings

Estella Nolta, the first patient at Upstate University Hospital, downtown, cuts the ribbon on July 20, 1964. She is flanked by Upstate President Carlyle “Jake” Jacobsen PhD on the left and James Abbott, vice president for hospital affairs, on the right.

Estella Nolta, the first patient at Upstate University Hospital, cut the ribbon to the new building on July 20, 1964. She is flanked by Upstate President Carlyle “Jake” Jacobsen PhD on the left and James Abbott, vice president for hospital affairs, on the right.

Fifty years ago, on July 20, Upstate marked the opening of the outpatient clinic of its new downtown hospital with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Estella Nolta, the first patient, cut the ceremonial ribbon and led the crowd into the then-new $22 million, 585,00 sq. ft. hospital at East Adams Street, Syracuse.

One year later, on July 11, 1965, the last 50 patients were moved from the old Hospital of the Good Shepherd (Upstate’s predecessor) to the new Upstate University Hospital. Good Shepherd closed, eventually becoming the School of Education building at Syracuse University.

This July — on Friday, the 18th at 10 a.m. — Upstate is hosting another ribbon-cutting ceremony to open  its newest building.  The new Upstate Cancer Center, located adjacent to Upstate University Hospital,  will house outpatient cancer services — for all ages — under one roof. This three-story center will offer the most advanced services and technology to the nearly 9,000 adults and 400 children with cancer who receive care at Upstate, as well as the 600+ patients in Upstate’s Survivor Wellness program. The building is designed to provide a calm and peaceful environment, and its decor and special features represent healing through nature.

Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony is open to the public and will include tours of the new center.

The public is also invited to an open house on Saturday, July 19, from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. There will be family-friendly entertainment, information about cancer services, and self-guided tours to see features such as the healing garden, family resource center, meditation room, private infusion rooms and the new Vero SBRT (stereotactic body radiotherapy system).

Upstate’s cancer program is recipient of the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons’ Outstanding Achievement Award, which places it among a group of 79 accredited cancer programs in the United States.

Exterior view of Cancer Center

The new Upstate Cancer Center will be open to the public on July 18 and 19. EwingCole, architects.


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Book about hospital during Hurricane Katrina warns of failing to prepare

By Chris Dunham, director of emergency management for Upstate University Hospital

5days“Five days at Memorial” by Sheri Fink is an amazing book, and I cannot recommend it enough. While Katrina is still relatively fresh in our collective memories I continue to be awestruck at the number of obstacles the staff at Memorial Baptist had to overcome.

The first part of this book details Katrina’s initial impact on Memorial Hospital. Sheri Fink details both the lackluster preparedness and the chaotic response in amazing detail of not only what went wrong but the assumptions regarding what should have happened.  In this book we get to spend time with not only the clinical staff but administration, support staff and all the others who played a critical role.

From an emergency preparedness standpoint one of the many items that really surprised me was the lack of hospital based incident command integration in to the local and state response partners by not only the Memorial itself but its parent corporation Tenet.  They both seemed to fumble almost every opportunity to obtain request critical resources and rescue assistance in the aftermath of the storm.

The second half of the book deals with each staff members lives become more complicated as various authorities believed that several physicians had euthanized patients.    We spend time with the patient’s families which paint an interesting picture of what they endured during and after the storm.  One of the more interesting parts of this book is a discussion regarding end of life procedures for medical staff members during a disaster.  The book uses recent studies as well as personal stories from Super storm Sandy in New York City to detail examples when scarce critical resources becomes a determining factor on which patients should receive care and for how long.

Emergency Management is at its core a process that enables rational, organized groups of leaders to come together and develop realistic plans in order to overcome events that could cripple an organization.   The monumental obstacles presented to Memorial Hospital during Katrina offers real insight in the fragile state of a complex healthcare organization’s ability to withstand a disaster of significant duration.

In my opinion, “Five days at Memorial” should be required reading for everyone at Upstate as it is a stark and well written account of a significant event in American history as well as a graphic warning to all those who fail to prepare.

Hear an interview with Dunham about emergency management.


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Carbohydrates are not the enemy

Carbohydrates such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta provide great energy, but Kaushal Nanavati, MD, from Upstate’s department of family medicine cautions eating them early in the day.

MH900388802“The point is, you don’t fuel your car up when you pull back in the garage. You fill it up before you go out on a long trip,” he says.

“Carbohydrates early in the day are great fuel to use up the rest of the day, but you don’t want to eat them and then sit. So, the idea is, you can have some of these things early in the day, but continue with your protein and your vegetables throughout the rest of the day.”

He tells his patients to eat seven to nine servings of vegetables per day, preferably including some cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower.

He favors beans, lentils and legumes for protein. For people who eat meat, Nanavati suggests fish, turkey or chicken.

Hear the interview from which this is excerpted.

Posted in community, integrative medicine, nutrition | 1 Comment