North Tower ready for business
GMC's newest addition celebrates grand opening, ribbon cutting

LAWRENCEVILLE - Hundreds of people showed up Friday for the grand opening/official ribbon-cutting ceremony for Gwinnett Medical Center's newest addition.

At last, the $80 million, 155-bed North Tower is ready to open for business. Patients, both new and South Tower transfers, will begin occupying the roomier, warmer, state-of-the-art rooms on Sept. 30.

Gwinnett Medical Center's CEO and President Phil Wolfe said the Duluth campus and now the new patient tower serve as enablers to the hospital's mission of transforming health care.

"Like open-heart," he said to a roar of applause.

Chaplain Bob Duvall joined attendants in prayer, blessing the minds that designed and built the building and the health care teams that will mend lives and bodies.

"Wind Beneath My Wings" played as children of hospital employees - donning maroon "Open Heart is in Your Hands" T-shirts - released balloons and butterflies into the suddenly blue skies.

After the ribbon was cut, staff members gave a guided tour, more like a party with a purpose, of the facility. Participants were treated to snacks, live instruments and caricature sketches in addition to a firsthand look at what Chief Operating Officer Jeff Nowlin called the "very healing setting" that is the North Tower.

The celebration, said Dave McCleskey, Board of Directors chairman, was as much about the relationship the medical center has with the Gwinnett community as the tower itself.

Dr. Manfred Sandler, director of cardiology, has been outspoken in his support of GMC's open-heart surgical program. This day, however, was a day to honor the hospital's support staff, the reason he loves to go to work every day.

"No matter what color uniform you wear to work," he said, "don't think we physicians don't notice (how important you are)."

Nowlin summed up his feelings about the physicians, staff members and volunteers by calling them simply, "the best of the best."