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Friday, October 16

17 Cool and Oft-Overlooked Things About MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX

I've spent a lot of time at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston over the last six year. It is a place that you hate to have to visit but are eternally grateful for its existence when you have to. It is a huge complex of eight buildings and can be quite overwhelming even to the experienced visitor.

Along with the excellent care that the center provides, they have made an extraordinary effort to make it a friendly and comfortable place to be for long periods of time, with the newer buildings sporting wide open waiting areas, flat screen TVs, aquariums, fountains, and even a sprinkling of recliners.

Here are some of the cool and overlooked features that we have come to appreciate.
  • Patient Advocates. They can mediate between you and the friendly but overwhelming leviathan. 
  • Cancer Prevention Building and Smoking Cessation Help
  • Care for Caregivers lunch
  • Complimentary/Integrative Medicine Education and Resources (CIMER) and online resources
  • DVD and VHS machine and movie checkout for inpatient and outpatient rooms.
  • Food Court/Commons in the Mitchell Building
    • Sushi, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, coffee and a place to sit down
  • Free Wifi, which is usually clogged during the middle of the day, but super-fast ethernet access if you can find an RJ-45 outlet somewhere. (shhh)
  • Beautiful landscaping, gardening, and even balconies with a view in the Mays building  for a breather or a book. My favorite is the butterfly garden across from the Place of Wellness at the main building.
  • Indoor exercise. The long connecting tunnels are a great place for a brisk walk, especially after 5pm. Raining? 90% humidity? 105F? No problem.
  • Kids and teen areas.
  • Learning center library and classes
    • A wealth of information here and helpful librarians who can help you find the most current research on any type of cancer in less than thirty minutes.
    • Classes on dealing with practical aspects of cancer treatment.
  • Lectures on all sorts of cool stuff.
  • Meditation Room
  • Over thirty aquariums scattered all over the hospital, including three salt water tanks, of which we've only found two, in the radiation lab areas.
  • Beautiful landscape photography in hallways and most rooms. It turns out that patients with a window or a nice landscape use about 20% less pain medication, and those in a well-lit room get out 22% faster! 
  • The Place...of Wellness is a part of the Integrative Medicine Program at MDA, but deserves its own entry. With a location in the main hospital and another one in the Mays Building, there is almost always something cool happening at one spot or the other, and there is always a welcoming smile and a quiet place to sit down and have a free cup of green tea, have a friendly chat, hang with the fish, and check out or read a book. They also offer a full schedule that includes massage and acupuncture, talks and lectures, and free classes in tai chi, qigong, meditation, Hatha and Kundalini Yoga, mindfulness, tea, feldenkrais, painting, music therapy, laughter yoga, and tons more. All of these have been shown clinically to help reduce inflammation, which helps your body fight cancer, and recover from it after it is shown the door.
  • Cool water wall and chill out area just outside of the food court at the Mitchell Building.
And jeez, Houston's not so bad either.

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