Remembering Emily: Sister Katie helps unveil Couric Cancer Center

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Nearly a decade after losing her battle to pancreatic cancer, state senator Emily Couric was commemorated Saturday by the dedication of a 150,000 square-foot University of Virginia medical building bearing her name. Headlining the dedication was broadcast journalist Katie Couric, who, several years before losing her sister, lost her husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer.

"I have personally witnessed the ravages of this disease and the importance of treating not the disease but the patient and his or her family," said Couric, a 1979 University graduate. Now anchoring the CBS Evening News, Couric has long tried to highlight cancer even letting millions of Americans watch in 2000 as she received a colonoscopy and, five years later, a mammogram.

However, she directed much of the credit for pushing the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center to cardiologist George Beller, her late sister's husband, who convinced the General Assembly to appropriate $25 million of the $74 million cost.

"George was like a dog with a bone," Couric told reporters during a pre-dedication briefing. "He never gave up."

At the dedication ceremony, whose attendees included cancer-surviving UVA women's basketball coach Debbie Ryan, Couric read from a favorite letter by a Union soldier who died at the Battle of Bull Run and talked of her sister's own relentless battles.

"She was consumed not by self-pity," said Couric, "but by a burning desire to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families."

The Center will begin treating patients on April 4.


Correction: The architectural firm of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca designed the building. (The third name was misspelled in one of the captions accompanying this story.)

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What a wonderful event! Another step to finish the battle with cancer. May the next generation only know the meaning of the word, cancer. Not the reality we see today.

$74 million to build, but how much to operate, and who will pay that cost.

And one has to ask- is cancer care becoming a self perpetuating industry, where the costs to operate such facilities incentivize doctors to cajole patients into tests and treatments that are at times questionable.

We all know of those who, after living a long 80+ year life, have undertaken expensive cancer treatment that severely limited the quality of their then brief remaining weeks or months of life.

Rationing health care will soon be, not just a pejorative term, but a necessity, and we must be able to define, as a society , our priorities.

Yes Nancy, what we should do is nothing because of the potential costs. Not treat, not research, and not find a cure. And yes, 80+ year olds have lived a full life, but what of children and young adults stricken with cancer? Again, should we do nothing? Either you move forward and progress or you move backwards. Doing nothing, not making the commitment and spending the money to help and cure is not acceptable.


You should ration your commas, but your point is salient.

We've been fighting the "war on cancer" for almost 40 years now, and it has become an industry. Moreover, a cost-benefit analysis would show a disproportionate amount of money is spent on research into and treatment of cancers that strike an emotional chord with people, such as breast cancer, as opposed to cancers or other diseases that are more deadly and/or prevalent.

However, cancer is a huge public health issue. Of course money will not be spent as efficiently or as efficaciously as possible; it never is. But that does not mean that money should not be spent.

Nancy, when I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer several years ago, I was a middle-aged mom with two preteen children. The surgeons, oncologists, and nurses at UVA saved my life and have continued to give me wonderful care. I am glad they have a new facility; the existing chemo center has become so crowded that it is hard for somebody accompanying the patient to find a comfortable place to sit down.

Survivor, don't get me wrong. I am thrilled that cancer patients and their families will have this wonderful facility. I am just concerned with the spiraling cost of some cancer treatments, and the refusal on the part of insurance companies to pay for these new treatments. Just recently insurance companies refused to pay for Avastin for some cancer patients, a drug that cost close to $100,000 per year per patient.

Who will pay the operating costs of such an expensive facility if health care dollars become increasingly
scarce ?

Well, let's see: Smoking is known to cause 450,000 deaths each year in this country, many of which are from cancer. Philip Morris, now Altria, is headquartered in Virginia and has former U.Va. president John Casteen as one of its 10 directors:

I agree that healthcare costs are going to be a big issue and that end of life care is a hot button topic that needs to be addressed. Not sure this is the best thread to go into that can of worms though.

I just want to know where to go to apply for a job at the cancer center?

Hook Reader - All UVA Health System jobs are listed at
Good luck!


I like to complain about UVA but when I read about new facilities like this or new medical discoveries from UVA I am thankful they are here. It's that love/hate thing I guess.