Top-ranked Southwestern finally gets its teaching hospital

SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL School is considered one of the top 15 medical campuses in the nation. But officials and supporters of the University of Texas Health Science Center say that the Dallas school cannot move higher in the rankings and attract more leading experts to its faculty unless it builds its own hospital dedicated to research, teaching and patient care.

Southwestern, they point out, is the only medical school among the top 15 that does not have a university hospital or an equivalent on its campus. Such “teaching” hospitals give the other schools a competitive edge in recruiting medical faculty, scientists and students because the facilities provide “an accessible single setting” in which teamwork can prevail not only in treatment but in research and training, as well.

Doctors from the UT Health Science Center (UTHSC) currently see indigent patients at Parkland, pediatric cases at Children’s Medical Center and chronic-care patients at Dallas’ Veteran’s Administration Hospital. Some also examine and treat patients at nine other medical institutions in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

But none of the hospitals have the extra beds or space needed to properly support the Health Science Center’s main missions of research and education. Travel time between the scattered facilities means that faculty physicians see fewer patients than they could at a central location. And medical students preparing to go into general practice do not get a “full spectrum” of experience, UTHSC officials say.

“They get plenty of indigent and trauma medicine at Parkland and experience with common illness and ailments,” one spokesman says. “But the students and residents do not get to see enough of the rarer types of medical problems.”

But Southwestern Medical School’s limitations may be on the verge of a cure. A number of Dallas business leaders want to build a 159-bed, $40-million referral hospital known as University Medical Center just east of Parkland on Harry Hines Boulevard.

If the project is okayed by the Texas Health Facilities Commission, University Medical Center will be a nonprofit “referral” hospital specializing in serious illnesses that are difficult to diagnose and treat. Private physicians would refer patients to the new Dallas hospital for further tests and care by members of UTHSC’s faculty. And resident physicians, medical students and researchers at the Health Science Center would have new opportunities to study unusual or complex medical conditions.

Hearings on a “certificate of need” for the proposed hospial were set to begin May 13 in Austin. And the project’s backers were expecting approval, since no opposition from other Dallas-area hospitals had surfaced and no federal or state tax dollars are involved.

University Medical Center will be built entirely from private donations and possibly the sale of revenue bonds, says Ben Lipshy, chairman of the board of University Medical Center Inc., a non-profit Dallas corporation formed in March 1984 to launch the new hospital.

Lipshy says that the group, which includes premier medical fund raiser Ralph B. Rogers as vice chairman, recently had secured nearly $20 million in donations and will stage a fund drive to raise the rest of the money once the certificate of need is issued. “We’d like to think that we will be able to do it all without having to sell revenue bonds,” Lip-shy adds.

Other members of the initial board of trustees for University Medical Center Inc., include Paul Bass, Charles Cullum, Lee Fikes, Gerald Fronterhouse, Margaret McDermott, Peter O’Donnell, Richard Reynolds, Jere Thompson and Donald Zale.

University Medical Center, which is scheduled to begin operations in 1988, would bring new dimensions to clinical research efforts in Dallas, according to Dr. Charles Sprague, the director of the UT Health Science Center.

“The growth of medical knowledge, new technologies and techniques requires the faculty of the medical school to be at the cutting edge of research,” Sprague says. “So it is crucial that the medical school’s vast commitment to that research be backed by a first-class referral hospital.”

Adding a referral hospital to UTHSC’s already-booming campus also would mean that faculty efficiency would be increased enormously, Sprague says. Many patients with complex problems who are now seen by Health Science Center doctors at other Dallas/Fort Worth hospitals could be transferred to the new University Medical Center.

If approved, University Medical Center will be linked to Parkland Hospital by UT Health Science Center’s new Clinical Sciences Building, a 10-story, $8 million facility housing the offices and laboratories of 60 faculty and more than 120 support per-sonel. Construction of the Clinical Sciences Building is scheduled to begin this summer. The 36,000-square-foot facility will provide the Health Science Center’s clinical faculty with “increased space and updated technical resources to pursue improved training and methods of care in such vital areas as burn treatment, diabetes, hypertension, developmental biology and pediatric trauma,” Sprague says. The Clinical Sciences Building will also contain seminar and conference rooms, he adds.

Much of the management responsibilities of the new hospital would be handled by Parkland Hospital, and a number of services, such as housekeeping, would be shared by the two institutions.

Meanwhile, construction is under way on yet another research-oriented building on the medical school’s campus. The $15.8-million, nine-story Cecil and Ida Green Biomedical Research Building is slated to open in fall 1986.

Lipshy notes that several university hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins, Sloan-Kettering, M.D. Anderson and the Mayo Clinic, are among the world’s best-known medical institutions. And they bring significant prestige-as well as top medical experts -to the schools and the cities where they are located. “I think people soon will recognize the name of Dallas’ University Medical Center among them, too,” he says.


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