Memphis has long been recognized as a top-flight medical center. And in recent years, those facilities have been growing, not only in size and additional locations, but in the types of services and research offered. From studies on diabetes, cancer, obesity, and various chronic diseases, to emergency room expansions, updated trauama care, robotic surgeries, and cutting-edge responses to heart attacks and stroke, local hospitals are rising to meet growing needs. Here we present a summary of each hospital and the new approaches to healthcare some now provide.
BAPTIST MEMORIAL HEALTH CARE
The flagship of Memphis’ largest nonprofit healthcare system is Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. This campus, located near the I-240 loop, includes not only the 706-bed hospital, which claims one of Tennessee’s highest volumes of visits, discharges, and surgeries. It also has an emergency department with 31 treatment suites; the Plaza Diagnostic Pavilion, which handles 6,000 outpatient visits a month; and the Baptist Heart Institute, with cardiovascular surgical suites, heart catheterization labs, intensive care beds, a heart transplant unit, and a clinical research center dedicated to providing care for clinical research patients. Baptist Memphis has been ranked among the top 10 percent nationally for cardiac surgery seven years in a row.
Adjacent to the main hospital’s campus is Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, the only one of its kind in the city and one of only a few in the nation. It offers labor and delivery, gynecological surgery, a newborn intensive care unit, and a comprehensive breast center. Moreover, the women’s hospital serves as a regional referral center for high-risk pregnancies, mammography diagnostics, and urogynecology. Also part of this facility is the Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital, with its state-of-the-art pediatric emergency room and an outpatient diagnostics waiting room, known as P.D.’s Perch, with a play area for kids.
Among BMHC’s total of 14 hospitals in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi, several are in the Memphis area, including BMH-Desoto (Southaven) and BMH-Collierville. On the Collierville campus, in a peaceful, woodsy setting, is the Baptist Reynolds Hospice House with 24 private rooms and specially trained staff to provide care to patients in the last stages of life and support to their families.
In its 100-plus-year history, BMHC has had only five presidents, a fact that its current leader describes as “pretty special.” Jason Little, named president and chief executive officer in 2014, says, “We’ve been around for over a century and had only four CEOs in that time, and I’m very honored to be considered in that class of folks.”
LE BONHEUR CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
The Children’s Foundation Research Institute (CFRI) at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is pioneering research of chronic diseases that plague young children.
Spearheading that goal is Dr. Jon DeVincenzo, infectious disease specialist for Le Bonheur and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. DeVincenzo has laid the groundwork to effectively treat respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of severe childhood respiratory infections. His latest research results, published in The New England Journal of Medicin e, shows the encouraging results of a clinical trial of a drug that safely diminished the viral load of healthy adult volunteers intranasally infected with RSV.
Childhood obesity is another disease under the microscope at CFRI. The condition affects almost one-third of Memphis children and is the root cause of diabetes, joint issues, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and mental health issues. “I wanted to start a state- of-the-art obesity program within pediatrics, something that had never been done on this scale before,” says Jon McCullers, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UTHSC and pediatrician-in- chief for Le Bonheur. He recruited translational researcher Joan Han from the National Institutes of Health to develop the new Pediatric Obesity Program. Han has spent the majority of her career studying the genetic determinants of obesity.
The program includes a Metabolic Research Center to care for children with health complications linked to obesity as well as a Healthy Lifestyle Clinic. Along with providing expert care, the Healthy Lifestyle Clinic also conducts ongoing research studies. “Our family research study works with entire families over an 18-week period on healthy eating habits and exercise,” McCullers says. “You can’t just treat a kid who is obese. You have to treat the entire family to see if you can make a positive impact on that kid’s life and medical issues.”
Han is one of the latest recruits in Le Bonheur’s five-year initiative led by McCullers to bring in new talent. In the last three years, the hospital added 55 physicians and currently plans to add another 30 to 35 over the next two years. The research building is presently revamping many of its 29 laboratories to accommodate new hires. With more recruits to come, McCullers hopes to build another 15 laboratories on the building’s third floor.
METHODIST UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
Methodist University Hospital’s new emergency department doubles the space of its existing facility, features state-of-the-art technology, and improves patient and ambulance access. After two years of construction, the new center at 1265 Union Avenue opened in September 2014.
“The hospital’s old emergency room was built in a different era, and we had outpaced the ability to provide care for the number of people who were seeking it,” says Jeff Leibman, CEO of Methodist University Hospital. “We needed more rooms and more equipment to take care of them in a good way.”
To make way for the $33 million project, two adjoining buildings on the campus — the Doctor’s Building and the West Buildings at Bellevue and Eastmoreland — were demolished. The firm of brg3s architects was project designer of the two-story structure with rooftop heliport. The expansion adds 93,000 square feet of new space and includes 6,200 square feet of renovated space. An additional 16 patient treatment areas, including six high-level trauma rooms, brings the emergency department’s total treatment areas to 52.
Patient volume at Methodist’s emergency center has grown immensely over the last six years from about 47,000 visits in 2007, to more than 63,000 in 2013. Patient intake growth is expected to continue. And with the highest volume of ambulance traffic in the city, access was pivotal to the project. It’s the first emergency department in the area with total emergency vehicle access located below the ED, a planning approach new to Tennessee, but common in urban cities where land is limited.
“In the old days, if ambulances backed up because we didn’t have enough spaces, patients were sometimes offloaded in inclement weather,” Leibman says. “Now that issue has gone away completely because they are in a garage right next to the ER and in a covered area.”
Other new features include advanced imaging and technology. A new CT scanner allows staff to test critically ill patients immediately, rather than move them around the building. The emergency department’s chest pain center doubled in size with the expansion, providing faster and more efficient treatment to cardiac patients.
“These are trying times when people come see us,” says Liebman. “We really believe they need locations and space within the building to congregate and to take a deep breath when dealing with difficult times.”
REGIONAL ONE HEALTH
After three decades operating as the Regional Medical Center, known largely as The Med, the hospital and its affiliated facilities received a new identity in 2014: Regional One Health. The new “umbrella” name is a rebranding initiative that applies to the health system as a whole.
“Throughout the years we started bringing on new services,” says Angie Golding, Regional One Health director of strategic communications.
“We relocated the rehabilitation hospital; we opened a new long-term acute care hospital, an outpatient surgery center and four primary-care facilities. Those things alone were new entities and locations that we needed to create that umbrella name to cover.”
Regional Medical Center, the flagship hospital founded in 1929 and currently home to the Centers of Excellence — including trauma, burn, neonatal intensive care, and high-risk obstetrics — will remain the name of the acute-care hospital at 877 Jefferson Avenue. Other facilities, including the surgery center, extended care hospital, rehabilitation hospital, outpatient hospital, and four primary care facilities, now carry the Regional One Health name.
“Now we have the name to hold on to and be proud of,” says Golding. “Moving forward, it will be even more important because, as we bring on new services, we have the system name to brand them under, when before everything got lumped under the name of the hospital.”
Regional One Health and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center — Tennessee’s only public, statewide academic health system — recently partnered to form a new academic physician group: UT Regional One Physicians.
“The practice benefits from sharing in the operation of a larger system, which leads to process improvements, expanded office hours for physician visits, and increased availability for our patients,” says Golding. “UTHSC’s involvement provides an academic research and innovation component to the practice that can also lead to better outcomes for the patient.”
UT Regional One Physicians brings a new approach to practice management. All providers in UT Regional One Physicians are UTHSC faculty members, and an eight-member board of directors, including practicing physicians, directs the group. Services provided by UT Regional One Physicians include adult medical specialties in cardiology, obstetrics/gynecology, maternal fetal medicine, infectious disease, and hematology, as well as other services by surgeons, radiologists, and anesthesiologists performed both in the hospital and in outpatient settings.
UT Regional One Physicians is the largest academic-affiliated physician organization in the Mid-South, with over 175 doctors involved.
“With the creation of UT Regional One Physicians, Regional One Health is changing the way we think about how physician practices are created, governed, and managed,” says Reginald Coopwood, M.D., president and CEO of Regional One Health. “By working together, we hope to improve the continuity and quality of patient care, and create a more efficient health care delivery system for the patients we serve.”
ST. FRANCIS HOSPITAL-MEMPHIS
Sitting on 42 acres in East Memphis, this 519-bed facility offers a wide array of medical services that treat diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes, and helps patients who have suffered from such problems as insomnia, stroke, behavioral health issues, osteoarthritis, and more.
One of its most acclaimed services is in the area of cardiac care. St. Francis’ Chest Pain Emergency Center — the first of its kind in Memphis — has been recognized and accredited by the Society of Chest Pain Centers. Moreover, the hospital’s comprehensive cardiac program extends from emergency care and noninvasive diagnostic services to angioplasty procedures, peripheral vascular and cath labs, and open-heart surgeries. Each includes services to help patients and their families adjust to lifestyle changes. For its work in cardiac care, the hospital has been recognized by such organizations as the American Heart Association and the BlueCross BlueShield Distinction Center.
Also receiving recognition is the hospital’s work with osteoarthritis, specifically through MAKOplasty partial knee resurfacing technology. St. Francis was the first in Memphis to offer this service, which is a minimally invasive treatment for adults diagnosed with early to mid-stage osteoarthritis that has not yet reached all compartments of the knee. Performed by a surgeon trained in MAKOplasty using a robotic arm system, the procedure can result in such benefits as reduced pain, shorter hospitalization stays, more rapid recovery, and a more natural feeling knee. St. Francis also brought the first Mazor Renaissance spine robot to Memphis, allowing doctors to perform even complex surgeries safely and efficiently. Other specialty areas at this 41-year-old hospital are bariatric services (Center for Surgical Weight Loss), cancer care, and diabetes care, to name a few.
Reaching out to patients in northeast Shelby County is St. Francis Hospital-Bartlett, which opened in June 2004. Though smaller than the Memphis facility, this hospital nonetheless meets the needs of residents in the area with 88 medical/surgical beds, 10 mother-baby suites, 16 orthopedic/spine beds, an ICU and NICU section, an outpatient imaging center, and more.
ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL
Treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer, was one of the greatest cancer success stories of the twentieth century. Because of that treatment, today, 94 percent of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patients diagnosed with ALL will be alive in five years.
But over a quarter of young adults with the most typical form of ALL still suffer from a newly identified subtype with a poor prognosis called Philadelphia chromosome-like ALL (Ph-like ALL), and often do not respond to treatment.
Now, that may change. New research, led by St. Jude investigators, indicates the subtype is more prevalent with age and that patients with the subtype may benefit from drugs widely used to treat adult leukemia patients. Using genome sequencing, researchers also discovered the different genetic changes that drive the development of the disease.
“There are multiple new genetic changes we’ve identified, but at the end of the day they activate only a limited number of cell growth pathways,” says Dr. Charles Mullighan, an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Pathology. “Those cell growth pathways can be inhibited with drugs we already have available. One, tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), is widely used for other types of leukemia.”
St. Jude investigators worked together with the Children’s Oncology Group, a national consortium of investigators that treat childhood cancer to identify the subtype. “I think we are justifiably proud that we were able to identify it and move to clinical trial in such a short period of time,” Mullighan says. “Historically, it’s been a much more painstaking process where we didn’t have genome sequencing to make these discoveries so quickly.”
During the national clinical trial, the OCG will screen all children in North America diagnosed with ALL for the Ph-like subtype, then identify the underlying genetic changes and refer treatment.
Over the past several years, St. Jude researchers and the OCG have seen “striking results” diagnosing and treating children with the subtype. They collected material on children in different cities with ALL who possibly had the subtype, those that either weren’t responding to standard therapy or had a change in their routine genetic testing. Mullighan then tested for the Ph-like subtype. “The majority of the children we tested were indeed Ph-like, and many did have the genetic changes we discovered previously,” Mullighan says. “Of those being treated, the majority saw a traumatic squash in the leukemia that otherwise was not responding at all.”
St. Jude researchers published a case report last year on a child with Ph-like ALL who had unresponsive leukemia. The addition of a TKI to the child’s treatment entirely cleared the leukemia, and two years later showed no evidence of progression.
“This study has laid the groundwork,” Mullighan says. “It’s provided a lot of very compelling evidence. We know what the genetic relations are; we’ve provided a rationale for adding TKIs, and set the stage for a national trial. The anecdotes are exciting but we now need to test the ability of TKIs for long-term treatment outcome context.”
Hannah Bailey and Marilyn Sadler