Week after week I am saddened by the strident and personal tone of the Lawrence Journal-World editorials opposing the possible affiliation agreements between the Kansas University School of Medicine, KU Hospital and St. Luke's Hospital. It is time to take an "editorial deep breath" and debate the merits of this affiliation without questioning peoples' motives or veracity.
A distinguished contingent of Kansas political, higher education, business, science and medical leaders are working to benefit Kansas patients through such an affiliation. We have no motivation to benefit St. Luke's Hospital to the detriment of KU Hospital. On behalf of the Hall Foundation our actions speak for themselves. Over the last 10 years, the foundation has contributed approximately $35 million to the KU Medical Center and approximately $12 million to KU, while over the same period it has contributed approximately $300,000 to St. Luke's Hospital.
What then is our motivation? Quite simply it is to seize the unique opportunity presented by the generosity of Jim and Virginia Stowers and the Stowers Institute to transform patient care, physician education and life science research for the benefit of mankind in general, and this region in particular.
To realize that vision, the Stowers Institute needs an outstanding academic medical center partner. That partner has been KU Medical Center, where 19 world-class Stowers researchers are currently on the faculty.
So how does St. Luke's Hospital fit into this vision and why should it be involved?
St. Luke's is committed to providing specialized cancer care. Believing they could not achieve this alone, they entered into a partnership with Research Medical Center until it was sold to a for-profit company. St. Luke's then sought affiliations outside the region with Washington University/Barnes Hospital of St. Louis, a National Cancer Institute designated and world-renowned cancer institute.
Stowers interceded at this point because it believed that if Washington University and St. Luke's reached an agreement for specialized cancer care in the Mo-Kan region it would diminish the opportunity for KUMC to receive its own National Cancer Institute designation.
NCI designation of KUMC will bring significantly more research money, help recruit world-class faculty and scientists, and provide an economic boost to the region. Most importantly it will mean the most advanced clinical care for cancer patients from throughout Kansas will be available close to home.
Political, academic and civic leadership are convinced that without an affiliation agreement that includes St. Luke's, KU Hospital and KUMC, St. Luke's will reach an agreement with Washington University. What would that mean?
A likely end to any realistic opportunity for NCI designation at KUMC. Without the prospect for NCI designation at KUMC, Stowers will seek a new academic partner outside Greater Kansas City. This turning away of Stowers would be a devastating blow to the region and to the medical center.
While the Lawrence Journal-World's editor has characterized this affiliation agreement in negative ways, we see it as one of the great opportunities in the history of the university, the medical center and for every Kansas family that has ever been touched by cancer.
It's unfortunate that the Journal-World has chosen to mischaracterize this unique opportunity to take a good institution and make it one of the elite medical centers in the country. Nonetheless, I hope the editor will realize that those who disagree with his position on this matter are doing so based upon their sincere and honest beliefs and that the debate can return to substance, not name calling.