ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center

Holistic Cancer Care For Mind, Body, And Spirit

Healthcare organizations are increasingly emphasizing an overlooked but important aspect of cancer care—the patients’ emotional wellbeing. This emphasis on wellbeing through a collaborative care model drove the planning of ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton, Wisconsin.

ThedaCare and HGA started with a survey to 450 patients, caregivers and family members to learn about services and amenities they wanted. The planning team followed-up with a series of visioning sessions with staff and caregivers to identify milestones in the patient/family journey, and then refined their research and conceptual plans through feedback from seven town-hall meetings throughout the Fox Valley region.

More personally, the design team also turned to a Patient Advocate, a ThedaCare Foundation Board Member whose wife recently died from cancer. He spoke collectively for patients, survivors and families, informing all aspects of the design. His input included a need for high ceilings, natural light, connection to nature, clear wayfinding, a variety of seating, places of respite, personalized concierge service—and equally important an emphasis on family and visitor wellbeing.

The campus features meadows, wetlands, forest, seasonal plantings, walking paths, and courtyards, and a canopied drop-off, where an assigned greeter meets patients and their family. Architectural materials and textures humanize the building scale with a rhythmic pattern of natural stone quarried from nearby Fond du Lac, natural wood that adds warmth, abundant glass that increases interior daylight, and metal panels that add architectural accents. Inside, a two-story atrium features familiar regional materials, such as natural quartzite along the registration desk and textured wood wall unifying the first and second level while offering comfortable seating arrangements with views of the landscaped campus.

Based on feedback from patient visioning sessions, ThedaCare integrated positive features into the infusion Bays, such as a decorative glass bead ceiling with specialty lighting, private Infusion Courtyard with views of nature, private and communal infusion bays, and seating and tables for family members. And one added benefit—a therapy dog that brightens patients’ experience with the simple wag of a tail.

In the Radiation Vaults, as well, ThedaCare noted patients’ desire to “make the room very inviting and as unintimidating as possible” with “natural views.” The team answered the request by wrapping the windowless walls in panoramic regional nature scenes of meadows, lakes and forests and adding colored LED lights that allow patients to control brightness and color preferences.

From the start, physicians and staff were involved in the planning to achieve a collaborative care model. Three components of the workspaces support collaboration.

The Exam Corridors connect to an open Collaboration Space to facilitate interaction between the physician and clinical teams.

The Collaboration Space is inspired by corporate workplace research. The open workspaces include sit-to-stand workstations and customized spaces that support focused, collaborative, and nomadic work styles. Exterior views to wetlands and sculptural skylights provide daylight and reconnect staff to the site and nature, supporting their wellbeing.

The 170 SF Exam Rooms (larger than standard) allow multiple providers to meet with the patient and family simultaneously.

Wellness programs are part of ThedaCare’s holistic approach that addresses “mind, body, and spirit.” The main lobby and front courtyard, for instance, serve as settings for special events while cooking classes in a kitchen upstairs address healthy diets for survivors and patients. Additionally, concierge-level services include a dedicated docent who helps patients navigate the hospital, while art and music therapy, massage therapy, yoga, and cosmetology services are planned.

While there is a steady increase of new cancer diagnoses annually, the survival rate is rising because of better research, treatment, and screening. In the future, cancer centers such as ThedaCare holistically will meet the needs of both the patients and the survivors—creating places that celebrate life.

Connected to an existing ambulatory care center on a 53-acre campus, the 84,000 SF, two-story Cancer Center integrates state-of-the-art diagnostic, treatment, radiation, infusion, and wellness services.


Appleton, WI

Building Type

Cancer Treatment, Clinic/Ambulatory Care, Imaging/Radiology, Kitchen/Cafeteria, Psychiatric/Mental Health, Retail


85,000 SF

  • 2017 AIA Wisconsin Honor Award

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