The big C. For patients and their families, the word is tough to process. In 2020, 18,093,716 cases were diagnosed globally in 185 countries, according to the American Cancer Society. In the Middle East, there were 463,675 new cases, accounting for 2.4% of the global incidence, as stated by JCO® Global Oncology.

Certainly, becoming a cancer patient can be scary, even with advanced treatment options and medical technology because sadly, cancer’s prevalence has become all too common. Furthermore, in every case, regardless of circumstance, cancer shifts priorities and can leave patients and their loved ones financially strapped. Yet in Pakistan, one healthcare system has been helping patients and their families fight back since 1994. Through innovative healthcare facility design, Schmidt Associates architects, engineers, and interior designers have been privileged to help in lessening cancer’s negative effects. Here’s how they did it for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre (SKMCH&RC).

About Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre

SKMCH&RC in Lahore, Pakistan is a quaternary care cancer treatment facility with a mission to provide world-class care to its patients, regardless of their abilities to pay. The hospital provides education to healthcare staff and the public while also conducting research. Since the opening of the first hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, more than 75% of patients have been treated free of charge and the hospital has spent over $350 million USD in providing charity care for the region’s residents.



Rendering of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and Research Centre

A long partnership

The first hospital was designed by Graham Rapp, FAIA who mentored Schmidt Associates Principal-in-Charge John Robertson, AIA and Medical Equipment Planner John Hitron, AIA, NCARB in the early 90s. Since then, Robertson and Hitron have designed new hospitals in Peshawar and Karachi and completed the designs for renovations and additions on the Lahore campus. The most recent project includes the design, development, construction, and commissioning of new cancer hospitals in Peshawar and Karachi, and new clinical and administrative buildings at the Lahore hospital. With designs finished, the clinical tower and administrative buildings project is undergoing fundraising.

“J.R. and John continue to be closely involved with our organization as they develop designs for a new pathology building on the Lahore campus,” said Dr. Aasim Yusuf, chief medical officer for SKMCH&RC. “I have enjoyed working with them because they are extremely, well-qualified architects with decades of experience, but what I have been most impressed by is how approachable they are, how patiently they listen to the opinions of end-users, and how open they are to new ideas and innovation.”


Karachi Axon

Continuing healthcare innovation

Using principles of flexible design and servant leadership as their guides, Robertson and Hitron are addressing specific design challenges such as building orientation, cultural requirements, and equipment selection and placement in a highly responsive and efficient manner so that turnaround times for necessary changes are reduced.

Conducting research

“They are very patient, cheerfully going over and re-doing designs again and again until they have satisfied their clients completely, and both are always available to talk at 6 am to ensure convenience,” Yusuf explains. “In Peshawar, we needed to revise the layout of our CT scanner. J.R. and I talked and agreed on changes over the phone. When designing our hospital in Karachi, he flew to Pakistan and spent days viewing modern and historic buildings to get a sense of local design patterns.”

As a result of his dedication, Robertson was asked to accompany the medical team to Karachi University, which was designed by the renowned French architect, Michel Ecochard. The campus includes design elements intended to counter the heat and dust in the city. Following that visit, Robertson and Hitron adapted and incorporated many of the features into the design of the SKMCH&RC Karachi hospital.


Karachi 2

Rendering of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and Research Centre


Servant leadership

“Professionally, our working relationship has been enormously satisfying and productive, and on a personal level, it has been a pleasure working with everyone at Schmidt Associates,” Yusuf said. “I look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship for many years to come.”

With cancer care continuing to evolve and more of the region’s residents requiring care, SKMCH&RC is embarking upon their largest undertaking to date, which is laying the foundations of what will become Pakistan’s largest cancer hospital in Karachi at 920,000 GSF added, and Robertson intends to continue with his innovative design approach.

“SKMCH&RC believes deeply in providing state-of-the-art cancer care for patients, and part of that commitment is staying current with a continuum of care that includes modern, culturally sensitive design,” Robertson said. “Working on this project and earning the trust of a highly skilled group of professionals has been truly inspiring and a major highlight of my architectural career.”

To learn more about SKMCH&RC, visit their website or donate to the efforts.