Oct. 24-Nov. 6, 2003
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Health System vital economic partner in community
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Nursing School aims to deepen, diversify nursing pool

Grant to help U.Va. develop historical preservation plan
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Teen grad students excel in academics
Health System vital economic partner in community

U.Va. Health System

Construction is under way for an expansion of hospital and clinical space, a $58 million project that began in January and is expected to be finished in March 2006.

Staff Report

An Economic Engine: Third in a Series

Medicine was part of Thomas Jefferson’s plan for his University from the beginning. In 1826, Dr. Robley Dunglison was hired as one of the University’s first eight faculty members. He taught anatomy and treated local patients. But it wasn’t until 1901 that the first U.Va. Hospital was built.

The facility’s 25 beds soon were overwhelmed, and four years later a program of expansion and growth began that continues to this day. The U.Va. Health System works to sustain Jefferson’s vision combining education, research and service as a vital partner in the economic health of the community.

With a budget exceeding $665 million for the current fiscal year, a workforce of more than 5,300 employees and more than 540 beds serving patients around the state and beyond, U.Va.’s Health System supplies a steady infusion of money, jobs and health-care service to Central Virginia. Along with the Medical Center, the Health System comprises the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library and the Health Services Foundation.

“As a health-care organization, we understand how vital our faculty and staff are to our ability to provide quality care for our patients,” said R. Edward Howell, vice president and chief executive officer of the U.Va. Medical Center. “Paying close attention to their needs and well-being is vital to our continuing success.”

Some facets are readily visible — in the stream of patients who seek treatment, in the bricks and hard hats dotting the area. Last year, the U.Va. Medical Center staff cared for nearly 27,000 in-patients and handled nearly 560,000 out-patient visits. And construction is under way for an expansion of hospital and clinical space, a $58 million project that began in January and is expected to be finished in March 2006.

Less visible are several equally important benefits, including care provided patients unable to pay, and research that stimulates advancements in treatment and innovative business opportunities.

Beyond the Medical Center
With thousands of patients, the Medical Center is the most visible component of the U.Va. Health System.
The elements below play other important roles.

The School of Medicine
The U.Va. School of Medicine was authorized by the Board of Visitors at its first meeting in 1819 and was among the University’s original programs, opening in March 1825. The original faculty consisted of a single professor, Dr. Robley Dunglison, who was the first full-time professor of medicine in the United States and a leader in medical education.

Today, the School of Medicine is a nationally recognized mid-size school offering graduate and undergraduate programs of medicine and biomedical research. Students gain clinical experience here and at affiliated hospitals and private offices throughout Virginia. After graduation, interns and residents continue their training as staff in hospitals throughout the United States.

Last spring, 126 students, nearly half of them women, graduated from the U.Va. School of Medicine. Of the graduates, 55, or 44 percent, planned careers in primary care and 71, or 56 percent, planned to go into specialized fields ranging from internal medicine to psychiatry.

The School of Nursing
Founded in 1901, the same year as the U.Va. Hospital, the School of Nursing has graduated thousands of students who serve in hospitals, clinics and other health-care settings in the Commonwealth and elsewhere in the country.

Last year, the nursing school graduated nine doctoral students, 60 master’s degree students and about 100 bachelor’s degree students. The doctoral recipients seek teaching jobs around the country; the master’s students are generally Virginians looking to specialize and expand their capabilities while improving their opportunities for advancement. Nursing undergraduates are usually snapped up by hospitals in Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region even before they graduate.

The Health Services Foundation
The U.Va. Health Services Foundation is the group practice that manages billing for U.Va. physicians. A private, nonprofit organization, the foundation was established in 1980 to support member physicians in patient care, teaching, research and administrative and financial management.

The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
Thomas Jefferson launched a medical collection in 1825 with the purchase of 710 volumes in the medical sciences. Unfortunately, the entire collection was lost in the Rotunda fire in 1895. But with the opening of a new Medical School building in 1929, the Medical Library moved into new quarters in the School of Medicine. In 1976, the $2.3 million Claude Moore Health Sciences Library was dedicated, and a $5.5 million expansion and renovation was completed in 1990.

In 2001, the U.Va. Medical Center provided $66 million in care for uninsured Virginians, serving more than 27,000 people who could not pay for their care.
“We’re happy to have them,” said Larry Fitzgerald, chief financial officer for the U.Va. Health System. “Our mission is to treat all patients, regardless of their ability to pay for medically necessary care.”

In research, the Health System is part of a University-wide enterprise that has grown dramatically in recent years. U.Va. now ranks 49th in the country in attracting federal research and development funding, according to the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies.

In 2001-02, the U.Va. School of Medicine alone received $155.3 million in research grants , creating new biotech jobs, while tackling such debilitating diseases as cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

And research funding doesn’t just sit in the labs. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that for every $1 million spent on research in Virginia, 36 new jobs are created, directly and indirectly.

Medical research at U.Va. is helping to build an emerging biotech sector in Central Virginia, said Robert De Mauri, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Regional Economic Development Partnership.

“Research fosters entrepreneurial development, not only from within the University, but also by attracting outside businesses to the area and enhancing their research and development capabilities,” De Mauri said. “Partnerships with University researchers coupled with the new lab space in the University’s research parks are helping to grow a high-tech community here — a welcome development as some of our older manufacturers have shut their doors in recent years, putting hundreds of local residents out of work.”

For all of the sophisticated research, high-tech care and intense academics, the Health System’s employees and students also benefit the local economy in the most practical and direct of ways. One need only stroll from the Medical Center across University Avenue to the Corner on a busy day to see the impact.

Wen Chen, manager and co-owner of Sakura Sushi & Noodle on 14th Street, is one of numerous restaurateurs who say their businesses thrive during the academic year and slow considerably in the summertime or during winter break. He figures that hospital employees account for at least 10 percent of the Japanese restaurant’s customer base with students — medical and other — accounting for another 40 percent. During vacations, he said, business drops by about one-third.
Families visiting the area to be with ill relatives at the Medical Center or Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center also spend money at the restaurants and shops in Charlottesville, especially on the Corner.

The presence of a nationally recognized teaching hospital — the U.Va. Medical Center for years has been ranked among the nation’s top 100 hospitals in terms of quality of care, operational efficiency and financial performance — in the community also creates a magnet both for businesses looking to locate and senior citizens planning to retire.

“The quality of health care in Charlottesville far exceeds what one would expect to find in a small community,” De Mauri said. “That attracts both businesses and retirees to the area because they know they can get the best care without having to live in a big metro area.”

And area residents need not walk through the doors of the institution to benefit from its presence. The School of Nursing in particular is helping address a shortage that affects health care across the nation.

Clay Hysell, the nursing school’s assistant dean for graduate student services, said the students’ strong clinical experience at a major medical center, leadership potential and analytical skills are major draws for employers.

“Demand for our nursing students is extremely high,” Hysell said. “Offers start coming in around Christmas and most of our undergraduates have lined up jobs by spring break of their fourth year.”

The economic impact of other activities at the nursing school is also real, if difficult to quantify. There are ongoing research programs to improve clinical care. There are efforts to extend the reach of quality health care through clinics in rural Southwestern Virginia. And there are student initiatives such as Nursing Students Without Borders, which encourage students to provide health care in developing countries.

This sense of outreach permeates the U.Va. Health System. In addition to the care provided indigent and uninsured patients, employees contribute in other ways, giving both time and money to important health- care programs.

Last year, Health System employees contributed more than $260,000 to charitable causes through the 2002 Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign. They also joined with other University employees to earmark more than $47,000 to support the Charlottesville Free Clinic, making the University the largest single contributor to the clinic for the year, said Erika Viccellio, Charlottesville Free Clinic executive director.

Founded in 1992 by two U.Va. medical residents to serve the medical needs of the working uninsured, the Free Clinic last year treated 1,200 patients and has treated even more this year, Viccellio said. The University continues to support the mission of the clinic not only through financial donations, but also by students and medical professionals volunteering their time.

“U.Va. provides a lot of service to the community through the clinic,” Viccellio said.


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of the University of Virginia

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