The University of Rochester Medical Center will invest $500 million dollars in its infrastructure over the next 10 years. The announcement came Thursday from the Medical Center’s CEO, Dr. Bradford Berk. The investment will include major upgrades to patient care, physician recruitment and research. The overall goal will be to make the University of Rochester Medical Center one of the top 20 academic medical centers in the nation.
Among the toughest challenges to the plan will be physician recruitment. While the University retains 40% of its current medical school graduates in the Rochester area, the community faces the same looming physician shortage as the rest of the nation. A recent report from the Health Association of New York State showed Rochester needed 104 primary care doctors as well as several general surgeons, intensivists, rheumatologists and endocrinologists.
“It's going to be an enormous problem. There are about 3-thousand physicians in Rochester and in 10 years, 1000 of them will retire or leave,” says Berk, “the Medical Center is the greatest asset for the community in terms of new physicians.”
Dr. Berk says he wants to increase the number of medical school graduates who stay in Rochester to more than 50% and he intends to recruit doctors who have a dual purpose in both clinical and research work. The unique duality is something Berk says not every hospital in the country can offer to a new physician.
“To have a faculty appointment, that is a big plus during their practice because it helps them to practice, allows them to teach if they want to teach.”
The University is also marketing itself as more enticing for couples and families who want to locate to Rochester.
“Because we're so large, many job opportunities for spouses makes this an attractive place,” says Berk.
Salaries will also be a competitive issue for the University. Part of the strategic plan is to create benefits packages which not only entice junior scientists but are economically attractive to established research physicians who bring with them valuable grant funding opportunities.
“We are the biggest employer, we have a responsibility to really be part of the fabric of the community,” says Berk.
One of the biggest winners in the new strategic plan will be area patients. The plan calls for a complete modernization of the existing hospital. There will be more private rooms for patients as well as a focus on family; allowing families to accompany patients in a more intimate setting while they undergo treatment or surgery. The additional beds will also ease the hospital’s current overcrowding, where on any given day, the U of R will operate at a 110% capacity for inpatients.
Patients will also have access to the latest treatments via the University’s new translational research center.
“We're looking at discovery in the lab that might be a genetic process then a drug developed on how to attack that process and into clinical trials. And then ultimately now to the community, where the research is used as part of general care,” says Dr. Richard Fisher, director of the Wilmot Cancer Center.
The University’s plan will be funded through a variety of ways including private donations, foundation increases and state dollars. The plan will, if all goes according to schedule, have a significant financial runoff for the Rochester area.
In the next 10 years, the plan will not only create 771 new jobs at the University, it will add 1000 permanent jobs in Rochester.
“Universities are very stable employers,” says Dr. Berk.
Construction will also be a big economic boon from the plan. The expansion of patient rooms and new research facilities are popping up at a rapid pace. There will be an estimated 1400 new construction jobs beginning this year through 2012. The construction is estimated to generate $40 million dollars in revenue for the area.
“I think it's the new Rochester,” says Dr. Berk who himself, is a graduate of the University of Rochester Medical School, “health and education in many cities now are among the largest employers and they're great, they don't pollute, they turn out great students who become members of the communities.”
There is also the research component; the University of Rochester is developing new techniques and treatments everyday. Scientists have patented dozens in the last five years generating more than $50 million in revenue.
“This is my community, I want our community to grow and I see that healthcare, biotech is a huge opportunity for this community,” says Dr. Berk.