Years before we broke ground in March of 2015, ECU Health became seriously committed to creating a world-class cancer center close to home. When those early discussions began, cancer was the number one cause of death among adults in eastern North Carolina. Our mortality rate was 15% higher in our 29-county service area than all of the other 71 counties in the state combined. Preventing the incidence of cancer whenever possible; diagnosing the disease at its earliest stages; and providing quality care all under one roof became a top priority for the organization. To help offset the costs, the ECU Health Foundation was asked to launch a $50 million dollar fundraising campaign to support the capital needs and programs and services for our patients.
In March of 2015, we officially broke ground on what would become a state-of-the-art cancer center that would serve as the hub for cancer care for our entire region. T.A. Loving, in partnership with Rodgers Builders and The East Group was asked to build this amazing facility. Less than one year later, we celebrated with a special ceremony to commemorate the final beam being placed into this emerging structure.
Two more years of construction followed before we officially opened our doors to our patients. In March of 2018, we celebrated years of hard work with a variety of events which included a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, a Community Open House, and a Cocktail Reception for our donors.
Because of the commitment and support of countless donors as well as the generosity of the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Foundation, the facility was formally named in their honor and is now known as ECU Health Cancer Care at the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower. Over 3,600 donors contributed to our campaign, and because of each of them, we not only reached our $50 million dollar goal, but we exceeded it!
We were so fortunate to work side-by-side with a very dedicated Campaign Cabinet who spent countless hours providing tremendous advocacy and offering philanthropic support. Thank you to: Dr. Mary Raab, Honorary Chair; Myra Bowen, Co-Chair; David Womack, Co-Chair; Lindsey Griffin, Frank Fisher, Dr. Brian Brodish, Dr. Brian Kuszyk, Jackie Taylor, Cindy Kittrell, Cathy and Bill Mitchum, Dr. Walter Pofahl, Raj Patel, Phil Flowers, and Bynum Satterwhite.
The impact of this new facility is far-reaching and is providing hope for the patients and families we serve. Under the direction of Dr. Emmanuel Zervos as Executive Director, we are reducing our mortality rates and saving more lives each year. Since opening in 2018, mortality rates in eastern NC have decreased 14.2%, with our region less than one percent higher than the rest of the state!
Because of your generosity, we are providing the highest quality of coordinated care which is improving outcomes and providing much needed access. This coordinated approach which includes oncologists, surgeons, nurses, therapists, navigators, and many others creates the very best plan of care for each patient providing convenient access to everyone under one roof. All patients in eastern North Carolina now have access to ECU Health supported cancer care which includes nine hospitals, five radiation oncology sites, three joint ventures, and numerous outpatient clinics.
Thank you for believing in life without cancer and for your support and participation in this campaign. Every dollar donated was immensely significant and impactful. Your generosity and philanthropic commitment is in every detail of our stunning cancer center as well as the services we provide and the resources we offer. We conclude the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the ECU Health Foundation feeling very grateful for your encouragement and partnership.