Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center: Genesis and Fruition
by Victoria N. Meyer, PhD

In this section, we take a closer look at the individuals and issues which successfully brought the idea of an independent cancer center from vision to reality. The struggle to establish a cancer center at the University of Virginia was both a long, personal battle and the fulfillment of a prolonged administrative process to make UVa a premiere center for cancer care and treatment. We have the unique opportunity of exploring two insider perspectives. These accounts allow us to see the vital role that individuals continue to play in the narrative of cancer in America, as well as the progress that the medical community has made in the attempt to control cancer from the start of the twentieth century and the hope for improvements still to come.

The first section, “Genesis,” is by the nationally renowned cardiologist George A. Beller. Beller served as chief of UVa’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine for twenty-seven years, starting in 1977. It was not through his professional leadership within the field of medicine, however, that Beller emerged as a pivotal figure in the realization of the clinical Cancer Center. Instead, he was motivated by the personal experience of watching his wife, Virginia State Senator Emily Couric, battle pancreatic cancer. Beller shares his account of that struggle and the motivations that drove him down the arduous path to establish a new, free-standing cancer center at the University of Virginia in memory of his wife.

The second section, “Fruition,” provides an exceptional account of the institutional path to expand the facilities and services of the University of Virginia cancer center by establishing a stand-alone cancer center. Peyton T. Taylor, Jr., M.S, M.D., is not only a specialist in gynecologic oncology, but also has been an essential leader in the administration of cancer care for thirty years. Taylor has been in his current position as Associate Medical Director of the UVa Cancer Center for over three years. He details how the administration worked to ensure that the new Cancer Center embodied the integrative and collaborative ethos of cancer care at the University of Virginia.