MU Health Care turns pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Two hundred and eighty gels go up around the hospital for the month of October.

The last week of September was rosier than usual as approximately 280 lights throughout the University Hospital, the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital were tinted pink for October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“It’s just a way to help recognize the women who are fighting breast cancer and to get people talking about (Breast Cancer Awareness Month),” said Roger Higginbotham, director of support service for MU Health Care. “We wanted, on Oct. 1, to be able to flip that switch and turn (the lights) on to show our support.”

Pink gels were placed over lights, not only in various entrances throughout MU Health Care, but also the main lobby of the University Hospital. Lights were also turned pink in the stairwells of the patient care tower, the Ellis Fischel Gala, and the Brown Family Healing Garden.

The rosy theme is brought outside too by the pair of pink ribbons projected onto the exterior walls of the hospital.

“We thought having these lights would be a pretty, simple, and visible way to bring attention to breast cancer awareness,” University Hospital spokesman Derek Thompson said.

The idea for this pink glow throughout the hospital was introduced by Higginbotham, who said the idea just “came to him.” Higginbotham said he conferred with colleagues, and watched as his idea was turned into a reality.

“Everyone just jumped on board and thought it would be really positive, so we did it,” he said. “I was looking for ways we could draw a bit more attention to the facility.”

The pink gels were put up by the hospital’s maintenance staff, who, according to Higginbotham, really enjoyed the work. The staff reportedly did a lot of the research on the gels, and now that the hospital has trial-run the lighting, the staff has decided the gels are temporary and changes in technology are coming.

It is the first time the hospital has taken steps to show support through the use of decorative lighting, but Higginbotham said he is certain that a pink-lit October will now be an annual occurrence.

“I think people appreciate that we’re shining a light on breast cancer awareness, given that it’s a disease that affects a lot of people,” University Hospital spokesman Colin Planalp said.

The reactions to the pink illumination present in the hospital have been overwhelmingly positive, Higginbotham said.

“I was in the lobby at the University Hospital when we changed out some of the lights, and I watched some patients and families that were coming in making comments about how nice it looked,” Higginbotham said. “They were really pleased, and I’ve had a lot of comments from staff about how nice it is to come in in the morning if they’re coming in early and it’s still dark out. It’s really livened up our campus.”

In addition to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, plans to honor other events such as National Autism Awareness Month in April and the upcoming World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17 are also in the works.

The hospital is currently looking into lighting the facility purple with respect to World Prematurity Day, inspired by the Empire State Building, which also changes its lights to observe the day, and blue for autism awareness.

“I think that we’ll do a lot more things in the future with lights,” Higginbotham said. “We’re looking at some LED lights that’ll make this easier for us to do, not such a labor-intensive process … The idea is that we’ll be celebrating several things throughout the upcoming years.”

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