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H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute has made a lasting commitment to the prevention and cure of cancer, working tirelessly in the areas of patient care, research and education to advance one step further in fighting this disease.

How It All Began

In 1978, H. Lee Moffitt, then a Florida state representative, first started talking to people about a cancer center for Tampa. The legislator faced enormous odds – a less than enthusiastic local medical community, a myriad of approvals required by state and regional health care agencies and the need for a staggering financial commitment from a budget-conscious state Legislature and governor.

But Moffitt, who had survived a bout with cancer in the early 1970s and had lost two friends to cancer, kept right on talking about Florida’s high rates of cancer and how more than 14,000 new cancer cases were expected each year within a 100-mile radius of Tampa.

Moffitt and Dr. Hollis Boren, then dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine, sought support from community and medical leaders who were predictably nervous about adding another major facility in the already fiscally stressed local health care arena. Moffitt and Boren argued that the cancer center would draw patients from a far wider radius than local hospitals because of its exclusive focus on cancer.

In 1981, the state Legislature appropriated $600,000 in planning money for the proposed 240-bed hospital. The Board of Regents selected architects Stuart L. Bentler of Tampa and Heery and Heery of Atlanta, along with medical consultants to conduct feasibility studies. The outcome was a recommendation for a 150-bed facility. Among the consultants was Dr. R. Lee Clark, the first full-time president of M. D. Anderson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, who expressed full support of Florida’s proposed center.

In June 1981, the Legislature appropriated $3.5 million in start-up funds for the Cancer Center. Moffitt, by then Speaker of the House of Representatives, drafted a bill earmarking proceeds from a state cigarette tax for the Cancer Center’s construction. In March 1982, the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services granted the Certificate of Need.

The rest is history. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the $70 million, 162-bed facility occurred in January 1983. Construction continued throughout 1985, with the finishing touches completed during early 1986. The Cancer Center was dedicated on October 18, 1986, and opened to patients on October 27, 1986.

The Cancer Center Board of Directors incorporated in April 1984. The board followed a Florida House of Representatives mandate to name the hospital for House Speaker H. Lee Moffitt. Moffitt at first prevented his colleagues from placing the bill that named the center on the House floor, but they voted on the special tribute while he was away from the podium.

A Tampa Tribune editorial called the Cancer Center the product of H. Lee Moffitt’s “steel persistence and cotton diplomacy” and went on to give what may be a newspaper’s highest compliment to a political leader:

“It’s true enough that the art of politics is compromise,” the editorial said, "but the point of compromise is to get things done. Lee Moffitt did.”

 
 
 
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