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Real Estate Bisnow
July 22, 2008

New Designs for
Holy Cross,
Walter Reed


Quick: What do Holy Cross hospital and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center have in common? Well, one thing is architect Phil Tobey of architecture giant SmithGroup, who's done recent designs for both.


Phil's team designed the new patient tower at Holy Cross, likely to break ground in mid-'09. Its budget will eclipse $200 million and include nearly 200 private rooms. Without these private rooms, 100% occupancy is nearly impossible because some patients can't share. (Phil says it's because of certain illnesses, but we think that might be code for Jell-O slurpers.) SmithGroup designed the building with the flexibility to accommodate future changes in technology and hospital specialties.


His other project will stand next to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (named for fallen heroes) will focus on traumatic brain injury, the Iraq War's signature wound. In addition to research and clinical work, it will serve as a hub to TBI patients across the country. SmithGroup has the project fast-tracked, meaning it begins construction before designs are finished; Phil hopes it will open in October '09.


This rendering will have to suffice until then. NICOE won't have any beds (it's outpatient only), but everything it does have will be cutting edge: a 360 degree simulation room, high-tech diagnostic imaging, virtual reality space to treat PTSD, and, as the picture suggests, remarkably realistic people. That technology is balanced with accommodations for visiting families such as a business center and even a putting green to help patients and families re-bond.


Phil doesn't just design for the armed services, he's also a client. He received a direct commission from the Air Force and served as an architect for the surgeon general. But for a real thrill, watch him get people to empty their wallets. He's an auctioneer and could recently be seen raising funds at an event for Reston Interfaith.

Feeling Pain? Check Your Anesthetic


Georgetown professor Gerard Ahern's study on painful anesthetics has left us more conflicted than the day we learned that our beloved sun caused skin cancer. His research, funded by NIH and the National MS Society, concluded that certain general anesthetics, such as isoflurane, actually cause pain. Burning near the infusion site has been an anecdotal truth for years, but there hadn't been any scientific explanation. Ahern's team identified the inflamed pain receptor as TRPA 1. Turns out it's the same one that activates when you eat mustard or wasabi, and it's more commonly known as the mustard oil receptor. Tests on mice lacking the TRPA 1 receptor resulted in no irritation.


Gerard's New Zealand roots explain the cricket bat but not why his grad students run whenever he picks it up. He hopes the findings will lead to more patient comfort but told us that other factors such as cost (non-irritating drugs are often more expensive) play into an anesthesiologists choice. His next study goes right back to pain receptors but will focus on their role in the regulation of obesity. Let's hope a pain receptor inflamed by chocolate cheesecake is not one of his discoveries.

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