Health & Family

Belk family donates $10 million for Presbyterian heart-cancer center

Officials of Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center announced Monday the launch of a $60 million fund-raising campaign to build a center that will house outpatient services for patients with cancer and heart disease.

The family of the late John M. Belk, former Charlotte mayor and executive of the Belk department store chain, kicked off the 18-month campaign with a $10 million donation.

The Belk gift is the largest the hospital has received from an individual for a capital campaign. It will be used to build the John M. and Claudia W. Belk Heart and Vascular Institute, a part of the new 150,000-square-foot building that will be at the corner of Hawthorne Lane and Fifth Street. A sky bridge across Hawthorne will connect the outpatient center to the hospital.

Total cost for the project is estimated at $90 million to $100 million, with groundbreaking projected for fall 2015 and completion projected in fall 2017, said Harry Smith, president of Novant Health’s Greater Charlotte market.

Officials said the location of services in a single building will “enhance patient-centered care coordination, improve accessibility, increase affordability and provide leading-edge treatments” for patients facing the No. 1 and No. 2 killers – heart disease and cancer.

Dr. Yele Aluko, medical director of the Novant Health Heart and Vascular Institute based at Presbyterian, said he and his colleagues are excited about the prospect of consolidating and moving into the new building.

“That obviously right away provides increased efficiencies for patient flow and patient consultations, referrals between physicians, conversations and dialogue and seminars within the Heart and Vascular Institute,” Aluko said.

“What’s even more exciting,” he said, “is that the same is going to occur in the cancer institute. There’s going to be the opportunity to create a lot of synergies having two service lines in one facility sharing resources, not just physical and not just financial, but also intellectual resources.”

Dr. James Boyd, who practices primarily at Presbyterian, said his group of medical oncologists will move to the new building even though their practice is not owned by the hospital. The medical oncologists will be joined by other cancer specialists in surgery, pathology and radiology.

“It will centralize cancer treatment,” Boyd said. “In this era of multidisciplinary (care), you’ve got to constantly communicate with the surgeons, the pathologists and the radiation oncologists. This will just allow that to happen better, I think.”

Boyd said that merging heart and cancer specialists will also assist with the development of cardio-oncology, an emerging specialty dedicated to minimizing heart damage caused by cancer treatment.

The Belk family has long supported Presbyterian, which was founded in 1903 by Dr. John R. Irwin. In 1917, Irwin’s son-in-law, William Henry Belk, helped Presbyterian purchase the former Elizabeth College property where the hospital stands today. William Henry Belk was president of the hospital board from 1918 until his death in 1952. The Belks’ 1920s home, where John M. Belk grew up, was donated to the hospital in 1968 and remains on the Hawthorne campus.

John Belk died in 2007. Claudia Belk attended the morning ceremony held under a tent in front of the hospital filled with employees, civic leaders and elected officials.

Kristy Teskey, executive director of the John M. Belk Endowment, said Novant officials approached the Belks about this project in recent months.

“What I think excited them about this gift and this opportunity,” Teskey said, “is that Presbyterian is looking at innovative solutions to address some of the greatest health care needs. Making sure that Presbyterian stays strong and innovative for the future is important to the family. It’s a long-standing partnership.”