Medical District exploding with growth

With expansion plans in the works or planned at many of Memphis large medical institutions, the city’s medical district is bursting at the seams with growth.

The time is now for the Memphis Medical District.

Not that the neighborhood has been slow to the table, but construction recently completed, in the works and on the drawing table will bring billions in new facility investments and thousands in additional employees. And the recent announcement of the Medical District Collaborative demonstrates a willingness of all institutions in the neighborhood to work together.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s announcement late last year of a massive $1 billion expansion that will add some 2,000 employees to its workforce grabs the headlines, but Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Methodist University Hospital and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center all have massive plans in the works that will reshape the district that is bordered roughly by North Parkway to the north, Interstate 240 to the east, Vance Avenue to the south and Danny Thomas Boulevard to the west.

St. Jude will be able to increase the number of new pediatric cancer patients treated by nearly 20 percent and double the number of patients enrolled in its clinical trials testing treatments worldwide.

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital last year opened a faculty office building. The hospital is in the process of renovating its outpatient building and consolidating some services there. That project, which will house clinical services, outpatient care and some diagnostics, should be ready by end of year.

Le Bonheur is in the process of seeking a certificate of need to submit this summer for an expansion adjacent to the current hospital. The new facility would be two stories and extend the Dunlap Street-facing part of the hospital.

“We opened in 2010 thinking it would serve our needs for years to come,” said Janet Phillips, Vice President of Planning, Strategy and Business Development for Le Bonheur. “We’ve found our growth has been so rapid that we’re running out of room in a lot of places in the programs of distinction. The ones that receive patients from across the country, we’re looking for space to expand.”

The 65,000-square-foot expansion will add surgery suites on the first floor with the second-floor space reserved for more complicated procedures, including an expansion of the cardiac cardiovascular program. That includes the addition of beds to the cardio ICU unit and a long-stay cardiology unit for patients experiencing heart failure or who have been hospitalized as they await transplants or other devices.

The first floor also will house a clinic expansion for outpatient and diagnostic services. Outpatient services expansions is a growing trend in health care.

“So much of what we did on inpatient basis can be done safely on an outpatient basis now,” Phillips said. “It’s just a trend based on the evolution of medicine. And we’re looking for opportunities to be as cost effective as possible.”

Expansion of outpatient services is part of the master campus plan for Methodist University Hospital. If the certificate of need ultimately is approved, the plan will modernize the hospital, enhance the patient- and family-centered care experience and relocate services that will improve patient flow.

The expansion will include a 440,000-square-foot addition that will create room to upgrade services within the hospital, as well as provide state-of-the-art medical technology. The upgrade of services will include oncology, transplant and outpatient programs into a new centralized area.

Adjacent to the building will be a new 700-space parking garage.

And as the hospitals receive attention for expansion, the growth at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center arguably touches them all. Its reach is profound, with many of its students eventually going on to work in the various health care institutions in the city.

A massive campus master plan for growth was unveiled in late 2014 and some of it is beginning to take shape with the first phase wrapping up. The campus will have at least 15 new buildings to meet expanding academic, research, clinical care and support needs. Part of the improvements also will include improved pedestrian and bicycle routes, better traffic flow, additional parking, green spaces, signage, 10 renovated buildings and update housing options.

Among the updates on the campus include the new 100,000-square-foot Translational Science Research Building at the corner of Union Avenue and Manassas Street.

Other projects that have been completed or are in the works include a $70 million renovation to buildings in the Historic Quadrangle; a $6 million renovation of the Lamar Alexander Building and the UTHSC library; completion of the $60 million Pharmacy Building; construction of the $40 million Multi-Disciplinary Simulation Building; and the $15 million construction of the Plough Center for Sterile Drug Delivery Systems, which will serve as the university’s Good Manufacturing Practices pharmaceutical compounding facility.
St. Jude Children's Hospital
The Multi-Disciplinary building will be used to train students on how to work in team environments to provide health care. But instead of having students train on real patients, the environment is simulated.

“It’s about patient safety,” said Ken Brown, Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operations Officer for UTHSC. “You want any patient to have safe and productive clinical experience. One of the challenges to training real students is do you give them real people. We don’t do that. They’ll run real-life experiences. This simulation environment allows our students to have that experience without the burden of putting real patients’ lives at risk.”

The facility also will be available for health care professionals around the Memphis area to come back and touch up on their skills, particularly as new technologies evolve.

The Plough Center for Sterile Drug Delivery Systems is under construction and will advance research.

“The difficulty in getting new drugs to market is phase one and two trials,” Brown said. “Our facility will be small and boutique but we’re interested in manufacturing those clinical trial drugs. There are lots of new drugs in the pipeline.”

Other new buildings in the master plan include a College of Medicine Building, a College of Health Professions Building, a second building for the College of Dentistry, a Women’s and Infants’ Pavilion, two research buildings, an expanded recreation center, a primary care clinic, a transit and parking center and several parking decks.

The College of Dentistry expansion is part of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s recently announced budget proposal. The expansion will enable more students to study at the college, which has a contract with the state of Arkansas to provide its dental education.

The Women’s and Infants’ Pavilion is a result of the importance of relationships and partnerships between organizations in the medical district. Brown said discussions began a couple of years ago to build the pavilion next to Regional One Health. It’s meant in part to address some of the alarming concerns with infant mortality in the Memphis area.

“We have an infant mortality problem in West Tennessee that challenges some developing countries,” Brown said. “One thing the governor talks about is improving the overall health of the state and 50 percent of the state is women. Having a women’s and infants’ facility to do high-end breast care, pelvic center and all the complex needs women have, we want to have that kind of facility in Memphis. We want to be that destination place where any woman in the state wants can come to us.”

Brown said he believes the Memphis Medical District will continue to strengthen its reputation as the greater region’s health care destination. Of course entities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital only enhance the international reputation.
In the coming years, the expansion plans at St. Jude will continue to solidify the health care services of the greater medical district. Brown said all of the city’s health care institutions have a vested interest in St. Jude.

“A number of our faculty work at St. Jude,” he said. “We’re intricately integrated in the fabric of St. Jude.”

St. Jude has announced a graduate school that could open in late 2017. The hospital also will see new in-patient units completed this year along with the start of a new research building, data center, new outpatient facilities and a clinical office building.

“To recruit basic science guys one of the keys is to have state-of-the-art buildings,” Brown said in reference to UTHSC but he could have been talking about the larger district. “It’s an important tool to bring in six-figure income people and their families to the community.”

Tommy Pacello, president of the Medical District Collaborative, said with a $2.7 billion operating budget among the anchor institutions in the medical district, the neighborhood is a giant ready to move forward.

“The big picture is connecting and having this entire central city moving,” he said. “We have just a small part of this, but the medical district connects all the dots.”
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Read more articles by Lance Wiedower.

Lance is a veteran journalist with more than 16 years of experience in newsrooms in the Memphis area as a reporter and editor, including most recently as managing editor of The Daily News. He regularly contributes to The Daily News, including a biweekly travel column, The Daily Traveler.