Capt. Michael Baker was stationed in Germany with his wife and five children when his daughter Emma, 4, was diagnosed with cancer.
Two days later the whole family was on a plane to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, where she is being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He said Emma’s prognosis is good — her chances of survival are well over 90 percent — but knowing she is receiving the best possible medical treatment gives him piece of mind.
“We were sent to the right place,” Baker said, after a dedication ceremony Dec. 3 that officially named the center the John P. Murtha Cancer Center, after the late U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania’s 12th district. The center is a partnership between Walter Reed, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the nearby National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The partnership was made possible by the merger of Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which started in 2010.
Murtha enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War and was elected to Congress in 1974, where he championed quality medical care for military families and veterans, and fought for tools that put our troops out of harms way, according to documents from Walter Reed.
The cancer center that now bears his name is a fitting tribute, said his widow Joyce Murtha.
“He made a difference to our wounded warriors,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. “He bonded with them as a soldier himself.”
The cancer center treats children and adults, and offers services such as pain management, patient and family psychosocial support, research programs and clinical trials. It is 74,000 square feet, plus more than 43,000 square feet of off-campus research space. It serves at least 50,000-60,000 patients every year, said Col. Craig Shriver, interim director of the center.