Archive for Saturday, June 17, 2006

Simons: Med center should protect Kansas’ stake in bioscience efforts

June 17, 2006


It appears more and more that various Kansas City leaders are realizing their best chance to hook their community to the fast-moving bioscience bandwagon is to forge some kind of arrangement or partnership with the Kansas University Medical Center and/or other Kansas initiatives.

So far, Missouri - at least the Kansas City, Mo., area - has little to show for its efforts to participate in the relatively young bioscience movement.

Kansas, on the other hand, has the innovative Kansas Bioscience Authority, which appears to be well-funded, well-directed by Clay Blair and already has helped attract more than 2,000 new bioscience-related jobs to Kansas. In addition, there are several sizable payrolls that are likely to be added to this total in the near future.

Kansas City, Mo., officials are very aware of the money the Kansas Bioscience Authority has and have been trying to figure out how to tap into the relatively rich bioscience bank.

Recently, some Kansas City officials interested in the biosciences effort suggested that KU Medical Center, St. Luke's Hospital and Children's Mercy Hospital form some kind of an association, alliance or partnership. This, according to the Kansas City people, would make Kansas City a more attractive center for bioscience efforts in the medical field.

Although the Kansas City, Mo., people did not say so, the KU Medical Center is the key component. This is illustrated by Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center, being named chairwoman of a new organization to try to make this hospital proposal a reality.

It may be a good idea, but KU Medical Center officials should remember their facility and its programs are funded, to a large degree, by Kansas taxpayers, not Missouri taxpayers.

It's nice - and maybe politically correct - to be looked upon as being helpful and offering assistance to Kansas City, Mo., hospitals, but it is questionable whether such help should be extended if it means there will be any diversion or lessening of funds that should be going to KU medical school projects, KU Medical Center students, faculty research, better salaries or Kansas projects.

If it is a good deal for all parties and both states, the idea may have merit, but it needs careful study.

It is understandable that Kansas City, Mo., officials want KU and Kansas help because they don't appear to be able to come up with winning programs on their own. There is a lot of talk but not much action or many results.

This is puzzling as Kansas City, Mo., has the Stowers Institute, a truly world-class research facility staffed by some of the world's best researchers, but, apparently, Missouri officials have failed to figure out how to use this tremendous asset to benefit Kansas City or Missouri or the overall area. The same situation exists with the Midwest Research Institute, a nationally recognized research center.

It is interesting, as well as disturbing, that the University of Kansas Hospital is not a part of the proposed consortium. This is a growing hospital, highly promoted by KU officials, with an aggressive advertising program that is getting a larger share of the Kansas City market. And yet, it is not included in the proposed new hospital club.

Several years ago, there was a serious, very serious and bitter, reaction by St. Luke's Hospital officials when a group of St. Luke's cardiologists and heart surgeons moved from St. Luke's to KU Hospital.

St. Luke's officials accused KU officials of unethical behavior, saying KU stole the doctors and paid them off to make the switch. The fact was there was a division within the St. Luke's heart program and the doctors who moved to KU did so on their own initiative after realizing St. Luke's officials had placed them in a less favorable position within the hospital.

There still are scars from the medical services civil war, and perhaps this is one reason KU Hospital and its president and CEO, Irene Cummings, have been omitted from initial plans to link the KU Medical Center, St. Luke's and Children's Mercy.

This may be a worthy and visionary plan, and those proposing the scheme are good people. However, it is hoped KU Medical Center officials will not be so eager to be part of something bigger that they are willing to give the farm away merely to please some people on the Missouri side of the state line, feed their own egos or please their Missouri medical and hospital colleagues.

KU's efforts and attention should be focused primarily on what is good for Kansas!

The Kansas bioscience movement is strong because of the combined efforts of KU, Kansas State University, other Kansas Board of Regents institutions, the Kansas Department of Commerce, the governor's office, members of the Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

There is every reason to be optimistic about the future, but there is no room for complacency or diluting the funding for Kansas projects. Let's keep Kansas in the regional forefront in the important and fast-growing bioscience field.


lmw 11 years, 10 months ago

It saddens me to have the State Line issue raised when Bi-state initiatives such as that referred to in this article are discussed. Nothing stops Missouri residents from using the KU Medical Center (I hope!) or Kansas residents from visiting St Lukes. One would hope that both would benefit from excellence in research in the area bi-state area. We want them all to be the best. This kind of unity should synergize to produce better hospitals and better opportunities to all the individuals in a bi-state community. -Or should we build a wall to keep out the immigrants!

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