We celebrated the grand opening of our new adolescent and young adult (AYA) inpatient cancer unit and infusion center located at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center – Fort Worth on Thursday, May 12! Relive the sights and sounds of our coalition’s biggest day thus far:

The FWAYAOC unit is the first community-supported AYA oncology inpatient unit in the nation and offers young adults diagnosed with cancer, ages 18 to 29, comprehensive, life-enhancing support, age-relevant resources and specialized care designed to improve their lives before, during and after cancer.

Roger Daltrey, legendary The Who front man and Teen Cancer America (TCA) co-founder, said the FWAYAOC unit’s impact will be felt across the country, adding momentum to an emerging national focus on AYA oncology.

“What the Fort Worth Adolescent and Young Adult Coalition has achieved is a model of good practice for the region’s young people with cancer, one that will be the envy of community hospitals throughout the USA,” said Daltrey, whose national organization (TCA) played an instrumental role in providing expert guidance and financial support for the project. “I commend the Fort Worth community’s spirit of collaboration, for delivering a world class facility and most of all, for putting young patients and their families first.”

Cancer can have a devastating impact in the lives of young adults who are in school, starting families or beginning their careers. Susan Shields, MBA, RN, NE-BC, Director of Cancer Program at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth said the project is one way the Fort Worth oncology community has been working together to address those needs.

“The FWAYAOC unit communicates to young adults that they’re important and that we’ll meet them where they are,” said Shields, who serves as chair of the FWAYAOC’s board of directors. “It represents what can happen when a community, united by a shared vision, comes together to meet the needs of an underserved population. Our coalition remains committed to working together to ensure all young adults diagnosed with cancer receive the comprehensive care and support they need.”

To help AYAs navigate life’s challenges, the unit will feature an AYA-specialized staff that includes a nurse practitioner, patient navigator, psychologist, social worker and patient activity specialist. Patients will have access to life-enhancing programs that include fertility preservation education, peer-to-peer mentoring, counseling, navigation of school, career and financial concerns, treatment education, clinical trial information and assistance with other young adult-related needs.

The coalition-designed space was made with the input of AYA cancer survivors and features the following young adult-relevant amenities:

  • Smart TVs in patient rooms
  • Spacious AYA lounge to facilitate peer activities, support groups and social events
  • Pool and Foosball tables
  • 70-inch big screen TV with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 gaming consoles
  • Patient kitchen that features a microwave, convection over, refrigerator and ice machine
  • Coffee bar and group activity table
  • Patient “cocoon” room and meditation retreat
  • Unit-dedicated WiFi network for movie, internet and video game streaming

Each year, more than 500 AYAs are diagnosed with cancer in and around Tarrant County. Previously, young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 have had to choose between a pediatric environment or one that serves mostly older adults, neither of which specialize in providing age-relevant care and resources to this demographic.