The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 3, 2012

Murtha's legacy: Research facility will offer state-of-the art care

Randy Griffith

BETHESDA, Md — Joyce Murtha said her late husband would be proud to see his name on the Defense Department’s only Center of Excellence for cancer care and research.

But while the new John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center represents state-of-the-art care equal to any major university hospital, Joyce Murtha expects its patient-centered approach to follow the standards set by the facility that bears her name in Windber.

Following dedication ceremonies for the new Murtha Cancer Center in Bethesda, Mrs. Murtha described her frequent visits with patients at Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center at Windber Medical Center.

Often she meets women who have been diagnosed with their second breast cancer.

“They say, ‘I don’t want to go through cancer again, but I can because of the Joyce Murtha Center,’ ” she said.

“That is a lasting legacy to Jack (John Murtha) – that they care so much for the patients. The same thing will happen here. It is happening here.”

It is also appropriate that research will be part of the far-reaching program under the umbrella of the John P. Murtha Cancer Center, Mrs. Murtha said, noting that the Windber Research Institute is one of the Walter Reed program’s partners.

Cancer research was one way John Murtha hoped to make a lasting impact on health care for the military personnel and their families that he cherished, she said.

“That’s why I feel this flagship facility named in my husband’s honor is very fitting,” Joyce Murtha said during Monday’s dedication. She was accompanied by the Murthas’ sons, Patrick and John, along with John Murtha’s brother, Robert “Kit” Murtha, and several other relatives.

About 12 members of Congress and federal officials attended the program.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recalled how John Murtha demonstrated his commitment to service personnel.

“Jack truly made a difference whenever he visited our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at the Bethesda Naval Center and Walter Reed, across the country, and around the world,” Pelosi said during the program. “He made a difference to our wounded warriors. He bonded with these courageous young Americans as a soldier himself. He cared for them as a father.”

Calling the late congressman and former Marine “patriot,” “giant,” “champion” and “our hero,” Pelosi said Murtha would have relished the honor celebrated Monday.

“I can just see him now, can’t you?” Pelosi said. “How he’d be smiling, connecting two of his great passions – combating disease and caring for our military.”

Also at Monday’s ceremony, Col. Craig Shriver was presented with the official appointment as the Murtha Center’s first director. Shriver, a longtime champion of Windber Research Institute’s partnership with Walter Reed, has been the new cancer center’s interim director during construction of the new medical center.

Shriver said the world-class program fulfills the nation’s promises to provide care for its military members.

“When the nation needed you, you were there,” Shriver said of the service personnel. “And when you need the nation, the nation will be there for you.”

Shriver commended his team for achieving the Center of Excellence designation and said the Murtha Center is on track to be the Defense Department’s only National Cancer Institute-certified Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The honor recognizes the program’s all-inclusive reach, he said.

“There are only 40 in the country,” Shriver said, adding that the Walter Reed program is already developing partnerships with the National Cancer Institute and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Distinctions such as the NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center show the Walter Reed program’s commitment to providing world-class care for military members and their families, Shriver said.

The new Walter Reed represents more than a new location and modernization of the venerable Walter Reed Army Hospital, Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Jonathon Woodson said.

The Bethesda campus merged the Army’s biggest hospital with the Navy’s health care epicenter, creating the largest joint venture in the history of military medicine, he said.

“I am proud of a system that delivers,” Woodson said.

Noting that the Murtha Center is named for “a proud Marine,” Woodson said the consolidated cancer program provides cost savings for the nation as well as scientific and medical benefits.

“In this season of gift giving, what a wonder gift this John P. Murtha Cancer Center is for the military,” Woodson said.


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