For Immediate Release January 22, 2024

SIH Cancer Institute Awarded $10 Million Grant

The expansion, completed on Dec. 31, 2022, occurred just seven years after the SIH Cancer Institute opened its doors; a testament to the substantial need for coordinated cancer care close to home. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the southernmost 11 counties.

“In the spring of 2015, we averaged 100 patients a day. Today more than 300 patients come here every day for care,” said SIH President and CEO John Antes. Antes shared compelling data on the region's poverty, employment and cancer incidence rates, all of which factor into access to care challenges SIH Cancer Institute patients face.

“With historical incidence rates of cancer, we saw a need for greater access to multidisciplinary care. Today, while cancer incidence rates in Southern Illinois are still higher than state and national averages, mortality rates have been falling compared to state and national averages. More of our neighbors are alive and here with us today because of the SIH Cancer Institute,” said SIH President and CEO John Antes.

Lori Merrill-Fink of Carbondale is a breast cancer survivor treated at the SIH Cancer Institute, or as she calls it, “the Healing Institute.” Diagnosed three months after she retired from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Lori went through 18 rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, 33 rounds of radiation and 6 months of oral chemotherapy. Almost six years later, she is now free of disease.

"Throughout treatment, I was surrounded by caring professionals here at the Healing Institute. Each engendered a deep sense of optimism and, ultimately, trust. They were so very attentive and present. I wasn't just a number, which I would think would be hard to do with a club with so many members,” Lori said. This expansion has and will continue to serve Southern Illinois. Providing high-quality cancer care to patients is only possible because of SIH’s incredible staff. "To the entire SIH cancer treatment team, you are setting the highest standards for care and treatment. It's a challenging endeavor, I know, but every day you exemplify what it means to provide empathic patient care. It's nothing short of heroic. We're all so proud of it. I thank you all for your service in that endeavor. And to the patients that are here today, you are fighters. You are resilient and relentless, an example to us all. And when you ring the bell, know that you will have 13 million Illinoisans celebrating alongside you,” said Governor Pritzker.

Illinois State Senator Dale Fowler, Illinois State Representative Paul Jacobs, SIH Director of Clinical Oncology Susie O’Neill, SIH Cancer Institute Medical Director Dr. Muhammad Popalzai and SIH Chief Development Officer Woody Thorne spoke during the press conference, broadcast live to a statewide audience.

Governor Pritzker also announced two additional grants, totaling $300,000, to be used for expansion of the Green Leaf Cafe at the SIH Cancer Institute. We'll share more details on that project in an upcoming edition of Inside SIH.