Investing in the Future of Cancer Care

After losing her husband to cancer, Susan Mertes makes a difference in the lives of other cancer patients through philanthropy.

Susan Mertes and son, WilWhen Susan Mertes visualizes the new Roslyn and Leonard Stoler Center for Advanced Medicine, she can already see the profound impact the state-of-the-art facility will have on patient care. For years, her husband Fred received treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Pictured to the right: Susan Mertes with son, Wil

While his care was excellent, Susan recalls some challenges they faced, especially on days when Fred needed to see more than one doctor. Many times, Fred’s specialists were in different buildings on the University of Maryland Medical Center campus. To someone undergoing cancer treatments, a one block walk can feel like several miles. The Roslyn and Leonard Stoler Center for Advanced Medicine will alleviate this obstacle by bringing all cancer center specialties under one roof.

“I have so much excitement for the new building and how it will help people in so many ways,” Susan says. “Families already have enough stress and anxiety. Finding ways to make it easier for patients to navigate their care and alleviate as many obstacles as possible are so important. I believe this impacts patient compliance and ultimately provides a better outcome.”

The Impact of Giving Back

Susan is all too familiar with the stress of a cancer diagnosis. Her father died of cancer 10 years ago, and two of her brothers-in-law were diagnosed with cancer; one was successfully treated and the other passed away last year. Sadly, Fred also lost his battle. He passed away in 2016, seven years after his CCL diagnosis.

“Fred told me, ‘If I make it through, I want to help people who are also going through this,’” Susan explains. “He didn’t make it, but I’m here.”

After Fred’s passing, Susan honored his legacy by making a generous gift to his care provider, Aaron Rapoport, MD, whose innovative cell therapy research has shown significant promise in treating blood cancers. She also joined the Building for Life Campaign Committee, a group of community leaders devoted to seeing the new building come to fruition. She and her son, Wil, made a generous gift in Fred’s memory to name an infusion bay within the new building. It is a space that is sacred to Susan; a place where she holds many memories with Fred.

“Both Fred and I continued to work as much as possible while he was sick; but on the days when he received his infusion treatments, we would be at the hospital in the infusion center for the entire day. It was time we had together,” she shares. “It was a place for us to talk about our hopes, dreams, and goals for our family.”

The new infusion center will feature private rooms, providing even more privacy and space to patients and their families. It also will feature space for patients to receive their infusion treatments alongside other patients, giving those who are interested an opportunity to socialize with others in a similar situation.

“I think the biggest benefit to the new building will just be the ease of access to everything,” Susan says. “Cancer is not just a physical fight, but it’s a mental and emotional fight. Removing any layers of stress will make a tremendous difference in patient care.”

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