Final beams placed on new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center

Final beams placed on new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center
John Wilbanks, Baptist Health executive vice president and COO, with Scott Gibbs, DPR Construction superintendent and Scott Wooten, Baptist Health senior vice president and CFO

Ironworkers and other construction employees of Perry-McCall Construction and DPR Construction were saluted by top officials at Baptist Health during the July 12 topping out ceremony for the new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Both Hugh Greene, president and CEO of Baptist Health, and John Wilbanks, executive vice president and COO of Baptist Health, spoke to and about the people who literally did the “heavy lifting” for the vertical phase of the $150 million project.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge all the people who have hard hats on. These individuals are the people who really do the work, at times 12 hours a day,” said Greene. “I’m really afraid of heights so I have great admiration for people who do this work. We are really grateful for the hard work you have done in keeping this project on time.”

Paulino Navarro of DPR Construction’s framing and drywall division signs a beam for Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Paulino Navarro of DPR Construction’s framing and drywall division signs a beam for Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Wilbanks, a 31-year Baptist employee, also gave credit and kudos to the various companies involved with the project, including the design team of HKS Architects Inc. and FreemanWhite, a Haskell company dedicated exclusively to health care.

“For me, the underlying theme is teamwork, starting with our partnership with MD Anderson Houston, and also the folks who constructed and designed this building,” Wilbanks said. “This is a milestone today. This is for the people who have been working hard to plan, design and now construct this building. We want to thank you and salute the teams involved in that.”

Wilbanks said the project involves over 1,200 workers from 45 contractors and sub-contractors. “This is a big deal. This building has 7.4 million pounds of steel, 3,000 truckloads of concrete, enough glass on the exterior to cover two football fields. This is a mammoth project in its size, for sure, and it will concurrently have a mammoth impact on care of cancer patients in this community,” he said.

Originating in Europe, topping out ceremonies are one of the oldest customs in construction, symbolizing a celebration of the skills of the ironworkers who brought Baptist MD Anderson to this point in construction.

Prior to hoisting the final two beams, hundreds of patients, family members, visitors, team members and physicians signed them with colored Sharpies.

“This is a transformative moment as we complete the physical building and provide a state of the art cancer care for persons not only in the Greater Jacksonville area but for the broader region of the country,” said Greene, who also spoke about the place of art in the healing process. “The next time you arrive you will see the art that is going into this building, emphasizing the role of art in healing. There will be five very significant pieces of sculpture as a part of this building.”

The 330,000-square-foot cancer center will be “an iconic building on the busiest interstate along the East Coast and it will be a tremendous addition to the architectural landscape of Jacksonville,” said Greene.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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