It’s been two decades since BC Cancer – Victoria opened its doors next to Royal Jubilee Hospital, a cause for celebration of the lives saved more than the years gone by.
At the time of opening in March 2001, the state-of-the-art facility was the second cancer centre in B.C. and saw an average of 25 patients per day for chemotherapy treatments and 114 patients per day for radiotherapy appointments. Today that number has increased significantly. Victoria is the second largest cancer centre in the province with more than 500 staff, students and volunteers. Despite the growth, the one thing that has stayed constant is the dedication to personalized patient care and making a positive impact in the community.
Kelly Nystedt, executive director of BC Cancer – Victoria, was the centre’s radiation therapy educator at the time and remembers opening day well.
“We were a small centre compared to Vancouver, with a small and mighty team. When the new facility opened we were able to provide the comprehensive cancer care right here at home for patients and families in the Vancouver Island community,” says Nystedt.
Shortly after opening to clinical care, BC Cancer – Victoria’s Deeley Research Centre (DRC) opened with a focus on immunotherapy; an emerging field 20 years ago. The DRC is now a national leader in immunotherapy and is also home to the world-renowned tumour tissue repository, a tumour bank that stores and processes donated tumours to help researchers better understand cancer.
“This is one of our unique points of pride, as we have clinicians and scientists working side by side aiming to find new discoveries and improvements in all aspects of cancer care from prevention to palliative care,” says Nystedt.
In the last 20 years, BC Cancer – Victoria has developed many new and innovative technologies and treatments and is a respected contributor to advancements in the field. The centre is a provincial leader in digital health with the introduction of Telehealth for cancer patients on the Island and more recently other digital health technologies that support patient consultations, group education and support sessions which can be delivered from the comfort of the patient’s home, removing many access barriers for patients who reside further away from the centre.
“We have an amazing team of passionate and dedicated staff here and there is a real sense of community, with a can-do mindset,” says Nystedt. “This past year in the COVID environment has brought out the very best in people and the courage, kindness and resilience I have witnessed throughout the pandemic has been awe-inspiring. When I eventually look back on my career, this will definitely be the year I remember as a defining time.”
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