Is Jacksonville Ready for an Urban Medical District?

September 29, 2010 15 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville begins the process of looking at certain elements of 2011 mayoral candidate's visions and how they relate to sustainable economic development and urban revitalization. Today, we examine Rick Mullaney's vision to build around Jacksonville's medical industry.

Rick Mullaney's View on Health Care and Jacksonville

One of the great things about this trip, as with other Chamber trips, is what is learned from other participants.  Dr. Rupp with the Mayo Clinic said that he believed Jacksonville already spends nearly $100 million a year, all combined, on research in the life sciences and bio-sciences areas.  He said that Mayo alone spends $35 million a year on such research.

Hugh Green pointed out how critically important it is to expand the collaborative partnership with the University of Florida and the challenges involved in that relationship.  He, and others such as Carol Thompson and Bill Mason, discussed the need for an expanded  urban campus and medical school presence in Jacksonville with the University of Florida.

Carol Thompson and I, on the flight over for nearly two hours, discussed Dr. Yank Coble and the Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy ("Center") and the Health Care and Bioscience Council of Northeast Florida ("Council").  In this discussion, Carol and I talked about the extensive and significant inventory of healthcare assets that Jacksonville has and what Yank is trying to accomplish with the Center and Council.

That inventory of assets, discussed on the trip, includes:

• Mayo Clinic and the research outlined by Dr. Rupp;
• Shands Hospital, including the proton beam therapy institute; the presence of the University of Florida faculty and residents; Shands as the UF teaching hospital, with research, clinical work, and residencies;
• Outstanding area healthcare systems, including Baptist, St. Vincent's and  HCA, and the clinical work, specialties,  and residencies there;
• Our community's proximity to the University of Florida, the largest research university in the southeastern United States, only 70 miles away;
• Excellence in numerous specialty areas, including oncology, cardiology, and pediatrics;
• UNF and Florida State College.
This list is by no means complete.  Dr. Coble and others are attempting to bring a focus to Jacksonville's exceptional healthcare assets and its potential for our future.
Having served for the last five years on the St. Vincent's HealthCare System Board, and currently as Chair of the St. Vincent's Foundation Board, healthcare is an area in which I have intense interest and truly believe this can be a defining industry for Jacksonville.  This not only includes high quality healthcare, but also medical tourism, research, and the development of related businesses and industries.  Sixteen percent of Jacksonville's economy is in the healthcare industry.  This percentage is going to grow as baby boomers age and Jacksonville grows.  
We need a focused, concerted effort and a bold vision.  That broader, bolder vision includes:
• A statewide and even national branding and reputation for healthcare in Jacksonville;
• A biotech corridor from Jacksonville to Gainesville;
• Expanded partnerships between Jacksonville and the University of Florida;
• A life sciences or biosciences institute in Jacksonville;  
• A greater presence of the University of Florida Medical School in Jacksonville;
• A master plan for Shands and the surrounding area;
• Expanding residencies in Jacksonville;
• Attracting research and venture capital dollars.

We need a sense of urgency in this competitive arena, however.  South Florida, with the Scripps Research Institute (biomedical research), and Orlando with its focused approach, which includes a new medical school, Nemours, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and Anderson Cancer Research Institute, and expanded affiliations with UF, are moving forward and attracting public and private investment.
Like Kansas City, I believe we should take a focused approach, bringing together the talent we have in the healthcare industry,  as well as community CEOs, Dr. Coble's Center, and other community leaders, and map out a bold vision, partnership, and implementation strategy.  To use your words, we should think about where we want to be five or ten years from now and beyond.

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Healtcare and Urban Connectivity: The Urban Medical District

Urban vibrancy is achieved by clustering complementing uses in a compact setting.  If Mullaney's desire to enhance Jacksonville's healthcare industry is combined with the principles of sustainability, urban revitalization could be jump started with the ultimate creation of "urban medical districts" throughout the city.  Below are visual examples of urban medical districts in various cities around the country and the impact on the neighborhoods that surround them.

Washington University Medical Center (Central West End neighborhood) - St. Louis, MO

Washington University Medical Center comprises 135 acres spread over approximately 12 city blocks, located along the eastern edge of Forest Park within the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. The campus is home to the Washington University School of Medicine and its associated teaching hospitals, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital. Many of the buildings are connected via a series of skyways and corridors.

The School's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty Physicians & Nurse Practitioners also serve as the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, which are part of BJC HealthCare. Washington University and BJC have taken on many joint venture projects, such as the Center for Advanced Medicine, completed in December 2001.

Olin Residence Hall, named for Spencer T. Olin, provides residential services for 200 medical and graduate students.

The Medical Campus is accessible via the Central West End MetroLink station, which provides a quick link to the Danforth, North, and West Campuses.

Medical Campus Includes:

Barnes-Jewish Hospital
Central Institute for the Deaf
St. Louis Children's Hospital
Rehabilitation Institute of Saint Louis
Siteman Cancer Center
Center for Advanced Medicine
Eric P. Newman Education Center (conference and convention center)

The Washington University Medical Center is centered around Metrolink's Central West End light rail station.

A compact mix of complementing healthcare and educational uses have created the synergy needed to support additional neighborhood enhancing residential, retail and cultural uses throughout Central West End.

Imagine the impact of such an environment springing to life around Shands Jacksonville and the proposed VA Clinic on the Northside.

Impact on mass transit: St. Louis' MetroLink averages 61,573 weekday riders, directly linking the Washington Medical Center to downtown, the airport, Washington University and a host of other destinations.  Since opening in 1993, there have been over $15 billion worth of transit oriented developments near the system.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago, IL

Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) is part of the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University, one of the nation's preeminent academic medical centers. It is the second tallest hospital in the United States and the fourth tallest hospital in the world. The 897-bed hospital also includes the Stone Institute of Psychiatry and Prentice Women's Hospital and Maternity Center. It is the primary teaching hospital for Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and a major midwest referral center. The medical staff represents virtually every specialty and consists of 1,545 physicians who are affiliated with the hospital and carry faculty appointments with the Feinberg School.

Originally founded in 1966 as part of the McGaw Medical Center at Northwestern University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital was established when Wesley and Passavant Hospitals were merged in 1972.

In 1994 ground was broken for a brand new facility at St. Clair, Huron and Erie streets. The new two million square-foot facility was opened on May 1, 1999 and included the 17-story Feinberg Inpatient Pavilion and the 22-story Galter Outpatient Pavilion. Aside from the 500 private inpatient rooms and the 100 private intensive care rooms, the new NMH Hospital includes an auditorium, a conference center, a health learning center, a museum, several restaurants and gift shops and a small bookstore.

A new women's hospital opened on October 20, 2007 on the campus grounds.

In 2008, The volunteer office was named for the generosity and philanthropic efforts of Josephine Rathje, daughter of Frank C. Rathje

Northwestern Memorial is Chicago's only academic medical center participating in city and state Level I trauma networks and as a Level III neonatal intensive care unit. The hospital's partnership with Erie Family and Winfield Moody Family Health Centers and the Lawson House YMCA has improved access to health care to communities in need and the homeless.

Texas Medical Center - Houston, TX

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The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world with one of the highest densities of clinical facilities for patient care, basic science, and translational research. Located in the Southeast Houston district of Houston, the center contains 49 medicine-related institutions, including 13 hospitals and two specialty institutions, two medical schools, four nursing schools, and schools of dentistry, public health, pharmacy, and other health-related practices. All 49 institutions are not-for-profit. The entire area is bigger than Downtown Dallas, however some member institutions, such as the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, are located outside of the city of Houston. The center is where one of the first and largest air ambulance services was created and where a successful inter-institutional transplant program was developed. According to the Texas Medical Center, more heart surgeries are performed here than anywhere else in the world.

The Texas Medical Center receives over five million annual patient visits, including over ten thousand international patients. In 2006, the center employed over 75,000 people, including 4,000 physicians and 11,000 registered nurses.

Adjacent to the center are Rice University, Hermann Park, Reliant Park and the Museum District.

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Impact on mass transit: Sprawling Houston's 7.5-mile starter light rail line opened in 2004, linking downtown with the Texas Medical Center.  Today, with an approximate daily ridership of 39,500, the METRORail ranks as the 14th most-traveled light rail system in the U.S., with the second highest ridership per track mile.

Last three images by wordjunky on flickr

Why Not Jacksonville?

In a community and urban core dominated by long established medical facilities, why not use them as anchors to economically improve the environment around them with uses that will allow these facilities and their industry to prosper?  

It is well known that our medical facilities are compact in nature, visited by thousands of people daily and face significant growing pains with situations like parking and education as they seek to expand in the future.  In addition, it's also known that fixed mass transit investments spur pedestrian oriented economic development opportunities, jobs, and benefit "ridership-wise" from linking facilities such as these.  

Currently, Jacksonville is a community that can be defined as having epicenters of prosperity and vitality that are isolated by pockets of disparity and blight. One way to overcome this problem is to link the economic development qualities of mass transit with the densification of medical based uses.  The end product of this combination could very well result in the creation of pedestrian friendly urban medical districts and clusters throughout our city. These centers will strengthen adjacent neighborhoods, improve education, create additional high paying job opportunities, and change the face of Jacksonville as we know it today.

Article by Ennis Davis