Tampa General, USF strengthen relationship to improve patient, academic experiences

Tampa General Hospital has long-served as USF Health's teaching hospital. Now, they’re taking their relationship a step further to deliver a pre-eminent academic medical center shaping the quality of care in the Tampa Bay region, the state of Florida, and beyond. 

The plan calls for the two organizations to integrate more deeply to function as a single academic medical center, aligning their administrative and clinical practice areas. The medical center is slated to bolster both the medical school and the hospital’s national standing, delivering world-class medical care. 

U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor puts the partnership in the context of Tampa Bay gains.

“The Tampa Bay Area is a leader in health care innovation thanks in large part to Tampa General and USF Morsani College of Medicine -- vital to boosting wages in a community that needs more higher-paying jobs,'' Castor tells 83 Degrees. "This partnership will give USF medical students hands-on experience with seasoned Tampa General professionals, and we will all be better for it. Young doctors will jumpstart their careers and patients will have better outcomes.”

The medical school and Heart Institute along with the USF's Taneja College of Pharmacy are part of the new Water Street Tampa development adjacent to the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) in downtown Tampa and a water taxi ride across the mouth of the Hillsborough River from the hospital on Davis Islands. 

TGH’s Board of Directors and the USF Board of Trustees will jointly govern the new company which does not yet have a name. A national search for an executive to lead the new organization will soon be underway.

Defining medicine and patient care

“Academic medicine is where medicine and care are defined, where it is created,” says Tampa General Hospital President and CEO John Couris. “This is where you explore through education and research and provide the academic rigor required to train the future physicians of our state and of our country.” 

Couris, who says academic medicine is about the business of coordinated care, compares the newly integrated company to a non-healthcare example: the Apple ecosystem. “People love it because [the Apple ecosystem] is reliable, friendly, intuitive, and takes care of all your needs. It is a fully integrated seamless system, it has a high degree of quality and reliability and it's very reproducible. It’s the same in healthcare, that’s essentially what this partnership is going to do.”

In addition to improved coordinated care, patients should benefit from better business services and access to information as resources are combined and scaled. All new primary care physicians will be employed by Tampa General Medical Group, all new specialists will be employed by USF Health. Transplant doctors will continue to be directly employed by TGH because of the nature of their work. Among the goals, Couris says, is that over time, the integration will reduce costs for patients.

Training future doctors in the Tampa Bay region
 
Tampa General has for years been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the top hospital in the Tampa-St. Petersburg Metro Area. It is the region’s only center for Level 1 trauma and comprehensive burn care.

And in the past several years, the USF Morsani College of Medicine has markedly moved up the ranking and now stands at 47 (out of 188 ranked schools) for Best Medical Schools: Research.
 
“Our goal is to have an outstanding program in medical school education, residency, and fellowship training; very innovative clinical programs with a lot of clinical research,” says Dr. Charles J. Lockwood, Senior Vice President for USF and Dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, who has seen research grant dollars more than double to nearly $270 million since he arrived in 2014.
 
The integration should help on a number of levels including cutting down on tremendous amounts of paperwork and contracts, and a lack of flexibility. The new academic medical center will allow investments to develop “marquee national programs,” offering residents and fellows a more improved experience at the USF medical school as it will be clinically integrated with TGH, collaborating on new service lines and innovations.
 
Both executives emphasize the approach is inclusive and will continue to support and rely on community hospitals, provider and community partners, and private physicians. For instance, in addition to TGH, Moffitt and the VA play a critical role in USF’s residency and fellowship programs, medical school rotations, and research initiatives. Only about half of TGH admissions come from USF.
 
Lockwood says a new residency program in anesthesiology is a priority as well as some boutique fellowships they want to develop and residency programs they want to expand, including OB-GYN. 

“I think this is a new day for the Tampa Bay region,” Lockwood says. “We have been one of the fastest-rising medical schools in the nation but this gives us the ability to really take off -- so fasten your seatbelts. This gives us the research, educational, critical care, and clinical tools we need to take care of the community and hopefully make TGH one of the top 10 hospitals in the United States.”

Related story: USF medical school key catalyst in downtown Tampa transformation

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Read more articles by Kendra Langlie.

Kendra Langlie is a freelance writer and communications consultant for regional and global businesses. Though she has always been passionate about arts and culture, she spent many years in the tech and B2B corporate worlds both in the U.S. and abroad. With a degree in Economics and International Relations from The American University in Washington, DC, she considers politics her favorite sport and follows it avidly with as much humor as she can muster. Based in the Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa, Kendra is a mother and wife, a news junkie, and lover of all things creative.
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