Tree Tops Off New UW Health Digestive Health Center

UW Health doctors, other providers, executives and other dignitaries attached ribbons to the tree.Madison, Wisconsin - They took turns decorating the small pine tree, tying red, white and blue ribbons to the branches.


No, it wasn't Christmas in summertime and there weren't any refrains of "O Tannenbaum" on a windy and warm June afternoon.


But for those in attendance for a "richtfest" ceremony at the Digestive Health Center, the new facility will be a gift for years, one that helps lead UW Health into a new era.


The Digestive Health Center, located on the corner of University Avenue and Whitney Way, is scheduled to open in early 2013 and will bring together UW Health experts in gastroenterology, hepatology, colorectal surgery and radiology under one roof.


"Looking at the structure, celebrating the development of this facility and the walls that we see that are open here represent I think to many of us what's going to happen inside here," said Dr. Eugene Foley, the Digestive Health Services surgical director. "But hopefully it represents to you, as it does to me, something a lot more than that ... which is the promise of a new process, a process of a new way of doing business which is comprehensive and multidisciplinary and ultimately very patient-centric.


"So although we're here to celebrate the facility, we're also here hopefully to celebrate the commitment of this institution to do things in a different and new way."


The richtfest, or topping-off ceremony, is an old German ceremony to honor all the people who contributed to a construction project by placing a decorated evergreen tree on the highest spot of the building.


Traditionally, it was typically done when building homes - which made this modern version of the ceremony particularly fitting.


"For our section, this is really going to be our home," said Dr. Patrick Pfau, the medical director for Gastroenterology and Hepatology. "The goals are for this to the best place for our employees and healthcare providers to work, for it to be the best place that there is for referring physicians and ultimately and most importantly, the best place to receive care.


"It's a big promise, with big goals. It's a big order to fill. But I also see it's an opportunity. That opportunity is really unique - it's rare that you have an opportunity to think about how you do business and to be able to start at the ground level and to re-do it and to think about how you can do it better."


A three-story, 67,000-square-foot facility, the Digestive Health Center will offer outpatient procedures for patients with disorders of the esophagus, stomach, colon, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.


Those areas were singled out by UW Health leadership when they started this project back in January 2010.


"Three years ago when we put our strategic plan together, we said, 'What are the clinical priorities that represent the best of the best of what we do at UW Health?' And digestive diseases and digestive health came up to the top," said Donna Katen-Bahensky, President and CEO of University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. "We said, 'This is something that we need to put our effort in, make it an interdisciplinary outstanding, state-of-the-art facility, patient- and family-centered’ - and our patients and families have been a part of this.


"What's most exciting about this project is the disciplines of gastroenterology, hepatology, colorectal surgery and radiology are equally involved and coming together in a truly comprehensive care center. It's really the future of healthcare."


Among the services that will be available at the DHC are:

  • Colonoscopies to detect colon cancer, the third-most fatal cancer among men and women
  • Upper endoscopy to explore the esophagus, stomach and small intestine for ulcers, bowel obstructions and hiatal hernias
  • Capsule endoscopy to take images of the digestive tract by using a pill that contains a small camera
  • Manometry to check for disorders, including dysphagia, heartburn, acid reflux and incontinence
  • Virtual colonoscopies, CT scans, ultrasound, radiology, nutritional guidance and laboratory services

"The healthcare of the future, which we've been waiting for for  15, 20, 25 years, is here," said Dr. Jeffrey Grossman, President and CEO of the UW Medical Foundation. "The writing is on the wall about how healthcare should and has to be practiced.


"(It) is not just taking care of the sickest and most complicated patients, who certainly will be very well served here, but also patients who are in good health and want to stay in good health. This facility and the people who work in it are going to perform an extremely important function in preventive care, as well as the care of disease."

DHC Topping Ceremony Slideshow



Date Published: 07/09/2012

News tag(s):  eugene f foleypatrick r pfaujeffrey e grossmandigestive health

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