Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Linda Haase
Doctors at Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Marcus Neuroscience Institute can view images of a patient’s brain in real time during an operation. A video/audio link to the operating room allows physicians to watch surgeries — and even ask surgeons questions.
But there’s something else at this center that will take your breath away. It’s the Wall of Love. The 28 heartfelt paintings were passionately created by clients with memory disorders at FAU’s Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center. Each panel features a heart motif and stunning colors — a vibrant visual interpretation of love. It’s a striking image.
“When you enter a hospital it can be a very frightening experience. The wall of love helps allay fears,” explains Dr. Robert Levy, a Stanford Medical School grad who heads up the institute. “And it resonates when they see the work of other patients.”
Other captivating paintings created at the memory center are also displayed throughout the second floor of the new $52 million center, which houses four operating rooms, a 20-bed neuro intensive care and step-down unit.
There are works such as Blooming Fields, created by Rosa, a 78-year-old retired cosmetologist. “She never painted before coming to the center, but her daughter says that the art classes allow Rosa the freedom to express what she cannot verbalize,” a sign next to the painting explains.
The artwork is part of the 57,000-square-foot institute’s mission to rethink the patient experience, says Levy, the former co-director of the Shands-Jacksonville Neuroscience Institute.
Because, as he points out, all the technology in the world can’t replace the empathetic care patients need. “We are using technology to give people hope but that doesn’t replace compassion. That is at the core of our care.”
That’s why the rooms in the ICU unit are larger than normal (“it has to be a hospital but it doesn’t need to feel claustrophobic,” Levy says), and why nurses are stationed at desks outside the rooms where they can see patients and check their vital signs on monitors at the desk — instead of at a central hub down the hall.
And anyone who has had a loved one in the ICU will applaud the decision to include a separate family suite with a bed and a shower so families can stay in the room with their loved ones — not relegated to what Levy calls “a funky waiting room down the hall” with limited visiting hours.
The outpatient department on the first floor is also designed to provide state-of-the-art care — and be a model of efficiency. Here, patients can be seen by myriad specialists for conditions including Alzheimer’s/memory disorders, brain tumors, strokes, spinal disorders, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
But here’s what sets it apart: All the doctors work full time for the institute as part of the team. There’s no running off to do rounds at another hospital or to see private patients. And there’s a streamlined approach: Instead of having to spend days, weeks — or even months — going to different specialists, labs and outpatient centers, patients here can be seen by several specialists and have all tests without leaving the building.
“The goal is to provide a comprehensive way for people to be seen by the doctors they need to see and have the tests they need and come away with a treatment plan,” Levy said. “It’s absurd to spend all that time going from doctor to doctor. We can compress what might take a month into a day or two.”
Levy recruited world-class experts highly trained in all facets of the neurosciences, including stroke, movement disorders, neuro-oncology, epilepsy, memory disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The staff also includes neurologists, neurosurgeons and neurointensivists (physicians specifically trained in neurocritical care).
The doctors will also mentor and teach medical students and engage in research, he says.
The center, sparked by $25 million from Billi and Bernie Marcus and the Marcus Foundation, was designed to be an “innovative nexus transforming the landscape of care for neurological and neurosurgical patients in South Florida.”
“Our plan at Boca Regional is to meld the best in physician skill with the finest technology and a marvelous facility to provide a center of excellence in the neurosciences that is unparalleled in Florida,” Bernie Marcus wrote in a press release.
It appears to have struck a chord with the community. Five days after it opened in October, it was at 70 percent occupancy. And, says Levy with pride, things haven’t slowed down since.
“I predict within the next 12 months these rooms will be full all the time. We envision we will have to go back to the community and tell them we have to grow. That’s how successful we’ve been,” says Levy, who was previously a professor and chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville.
He couldn’t have prescribed a better scenario.
Linda Haase is on a quest to learn — and share — all she can about how to get and stay healthy. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.