ST. JOSEPH — Two hands reach out to each other, their fingertips touching.

It could be the hand of a doctor or nurse extended to a patient, or a loved one, or even a stranger, offering a healing touch.

“This piece is meant to remind us that connection to others is essential to our well-being,” said Lynn Todman, who with her husband, Michael, donated $100,000 to commission the 20-foot sculpture “Connection” that graces the new atrium of Lakeland Medical Center’s new entrance.

“It is not just our physical and mental health that dominates so much of what we do here at Lakeland, but also our intellectual, emotional, social, financial and spiritual health,” said Todman, executive director of population health for Spectrum Health Lakeland, at an after-hours open house hosted by Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber. Michael Todman, a retired Whirlpool Corp. executive, is vice chairman of the Lakeland Board of Directors.

The event was held to highlight the progress of the $160 million expansion at the St. Joseph campus that includes a five-story, 260,000-square-foot patient tower with new space for the surgical department, intensive care unit, the heart catheter lab and the endoscopy department, and a “main street” corridor that will better connect departments.

Brandi Smith, president of the Lakeland Foundation who shepherded the sculpture project, commissioned by Spanish artist Casto Solano, said she could feel “the power of the healing environment” in the renovated area with its wide spaces and windows letting in natural light.

In his artist’s statement, Solano pointed out that the two arms gently curve, depicting “the distinctive helix structure of a strand of DNA. As one curves clockwise and the other counterclockwise, they represent two genetic codes meeting and coming together of all human beings,” as well as symbolizing “the healing touch of those who work in health care and those who reach out to seek treatment.”

Every building needs good bones, noted Dr. Lowell Hamel, speaking from the updated Upton Education Center which provides state-of-the-art technology for teaching and communicating.

“This is a pretty smart room,” he said.

Those capabilities were put to use as his brother, Dr. Loren Hamel, president and chief strategy officer of Spectrum Health Lakeland, conducted a hyper-speed, three-minute video tour of the inner workings of the hospital, from the three “massive generators” that can keep the place running for three days in case of a power failure, to the four chillers and three boilers that provide cooling and heat.

Dr. Lowell Hamel admitted that the health care field “is unrivaled in creating complex, confusing spaces,” and he promised that the renovated corridors would provide “healing as much as in the OR.”

New food stations – Lakeland Grill House, Greens Kitchen, Crust Pizzeria and Homestyle Comfort Food – are open to provide healthier food choices.

After the tower is completed early next year, another 70,000 square feet of renovations will begin, with completion slated for later in 2020. Renovations of the emergency department have started, and the main entrance will be revamped.

Lynn Todman said she hopes that the “Connection” sculpture points to a better way of life for the community.

“It conveys a notion of oneness,” Todman said. “We are one species. I hope this reminds us of that every day.”

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