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ProjectOne to pump 10,000 jobs, $1.7 billion into Ohio economy

OSU Medical Center Expansion.
OSU Medical Center Expansion.
In 1914, the trustees of the Starling Medical College -- an institution with roots going back to 1834 -- transferred all their properties to the state of Ohio to form a college of medicine at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

Starling-Loving Hall, the original hospital, still serves what grew over the years to become the Ohio State University Medical Center. But today, the building is dwarfed by a world-renowned cluster of facilities that contributes $2.4 billion to the Ohio economy annually.

Now, the Medical Center is getting bigger. ProjectOne, as it is called, promises not only to improve patient care and enhance the region's medical education and research capabilities, but to pump needed jobs and dollars into the economy.
 
Construction crews in June broke ground on the largest portion of the project, which will result in a new Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and a new critical care center with integrated spaces for research, education and patient care.
The new facilities will be green as well -- with loads of natural light, recycled construction materials and energy-efficient heating and cooling.

Tripp Umbach, a Pittsburgh research and consulting firm, estimates that by 2015 the project will create 5,000 construction jobs and more than 10,000 full time jobs in the state of Ohio by 2015 -- 6,000 at the Medical Center and 4,000 created from spending by Ohio State, its faculty, staff and visitors.

Steven G. Gabbe, the OSU Medical Center's CEO, says the project is all about meeting future medical needs, ushering in the next level of patient care and attracting crucial research talent and funding.

"Our objective is to be a top 20 academic medical center," he says. "We want to be a top 10-funded national cancer institute research center we're now about 14th, so we're getting closer to that goal."

Two of the Medical Center's six signature programs are cancer and critical care, he notes. The demographics of the nation's population are driving a special focus on those two areas.

"Our strategic plan shows us that in the next decade, the population aged 55 to 64 is going to grow 30 percent. That's the most rapid growth of any component of our population. And they'll need critical care and they'll need cancer care," Gabbe says.

But the James, a 180-bed facility which stands out as one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation, cannot currently handle those kinds of increases.

The new 276-bed hospital will "provide more opportunities to care for patients, not only in this region, but people who come here from throughout the country."

The 17-story tower will also house a new 144-bed critical care hospital occupying five floors, with another five floors containing outpatient and support services.

Education and Research

ProjectOne will also enhance medical professionals' ability to collaborate on research and on patient care, Gabbe notes. The James and the critical care hospital will be connected by bridges into the Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute and the Biomedical Research Tower, and an additional tower will house a new educational and research center.

"Today in medicine, when you teach medical students or residents, it's often at the beside, and then it's in the hallway. And that's not a good place to carry on a conversation about a patient. So, this tower will enable folks to sit down in small or large conference rooms and discuss their patients together."

Additionally, ProjectOne is an opportunity to achieve a more personalized -- and personal -- quality of care, Gabbe says. Hospital facilities will feature 12-bed units set up in clusters. Computers at the bedside and in the hallways will allow staff to retrieve critical patient information at their fingertips, eliminating the need to pull a chart. The Medical Center is working with the Fisher School of Business on ways to enhance the patient -- or customer -- experience. And green spaces, rooftop gardens and use of sunlight throughout patient rooms and buildings will add to the healing power of the medical campus.

Partnerships and commercialization

While many of ProjectOne's features are designed to enhance medical delivery, the undertaking has wider ramifications for research partnerships and commercialization of important new technology, observers say.

Current partnerships already read like a who's who of industry -- Battelle Memorial Institute, General Electric Medical Systems, Philips Medical Systems, Siemens and partnerships funded through the Ohio Third Frontier initiative, are only a few examples.

"ProjectOne has the potential to significantly impact innovation in health care at all levels if it is implemented as envisioned," says Tony Dennis, president of BioOhio, an organization that represents and advocates for Ohio's bioscience community. "One of the key barriers to the development of new products in health care is translating the observations of clinicians into relevant new products as well as translating research concepts into applied patient care. The creation of a high performance, integrated translation environment, as envisioned in ProjectOne should generate, new, practical commercializable concepts at a much faster rate."

Barbara Kunz, president of Battelle's Health and Life Sciences Global business, agrees.

"ProjectOne creates a wonderful opportunity to establish new ways of practicing medicine and bench-to-beside translation," says Kunz, who will become director of the OSU Medical Center Board at the end of the year.

Battelle, whose King Avenue headquarters lie right across the street from the Medical Center's core facilities, is the world's largest independent research and development organization, focusing both on scientific discoveries and application. Kunz notes that Battelle and Ohio State are already working together on many areas of research and that ProjectOne will further those collaborations while attracting top researchers to Ohio.

ProjectOne is being funded primarily through $925 million in bonds, which will be supplemented with public support and private donations. The city of Columbus has extended $10 million in tax credits to the project and, in return, the university will rehabilitate residential properties on the near east side in the vicinity of its University Hospital East facility.

"ProjectOne represents a significant number of jobs and a significant impact to the local economy," says Michael Stevens, deputy director of the city's Department of Development. "What we're encouraged by is that it provides a lot of opportunities across our community for jobs for people who are either unemployed or underemployed. In this day and age that's critical."
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