Jul 09, 2019 10:00 AM

Author: James Pehkonen


This essay was written as a nomination for Soliant's Most Beautiful Hospital contest.

The beauty of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) exists not only at the surface, but also at levels that go deep inside this incredible organization. Jon Huntsman and those who helped create HCI wanted it to be a space of peace, love, and hope as they designed and constructed the building. They achieved that in a powerful way. 

When you walk into the hospital, often to the sound of the grand piano being played in the lobby, the beauty almost takes your breath away. The architecture is enhanced by artworks in the halls, lobbies, and public areas. Hospital rooms provide serene views of the Salt Lake Valley or the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, which are covered in a blanket of sage, grasses, and wildflowers.

huntsman cancer institute
To me, the deep inner beauty of this incredible hospital is embodied by the people who work and volunteer at HCI. They turn the building into a place of hope for each person they interact with. From the receptionists to the nurses to the therapists to the doctors, everyone radiates love.
patients in infusion

In my many visits to HCI, I have been a patient, a visitor, a member of the therapy dog team, and a member of the patient care oversight committee. I remember what it was like as a patient going into surgery to have a cancerous kidney removed. I knew I was in the best hands I could be in for my delicate procedure. As I recovered in a room overlooking the beautiful Salt Lake Valley, I noticed how every detail created a space of healing and inspiration.

I was blessed to not need radiation or chemotherapy, but I wasn’t done visiting the infusion center, patient rooms, and clinics. I rescued a dog and trained her to be a therapy animal I could bring to the hospital to visit patients. Sometimes a wagging tail and a smile are just what someone needs when going through the scariest part of their life. Luna and I spend as much as time with the staff as we do the patients. In the clinics and lobbies, both patients and staff smile as they interact with Luna. In infusion, I talk with patients—seated in luxurious chairs that make chemotherapy treatments a little less miserable—and I watch their tears mix with smiles as they speak of their journey. I listen to someone in a patient room who is in the last stages of life, and as they pet Luna, we shed tears and find peace in praying and listening.

two men and therapy dog

HCI does not look or feel like a traditional medical facility. It is a warm and inviting space where employees and volunteers bring comfort to every person who walks through the front door. From the building itself to everyone inside, this is a place of beauty, love, and hope.


James Pehkonen

Huntsman Cancer Institute Volunteer
giving@huntsmancancer.org

volunteer patient stories