A proposed south Baton Rouge health district, which could include a four-year medical school, nationally recognized clinical research center for diabetes and obesity and new dual-degree programs at LSU, will be up for public discussion this month.
“It’s exciting,” said John Spain, Baton Rouge Area Foundation executive vice president. While this is planning for 10 to 15 years in the future, Spain said work on some things could start in the next three to five years.
The medical corridor was identified as a key district in need of redevelopment in the FutureBR comprehensive plan, which was established in 2011. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is overseeing the master plan for the corridor. Since January, consultants with Perkins+Will have been getting input from key stakeholders, such as Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, General Health Systems, Woman’s Hospital, Ochsner Medical Center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and The Neuromedical Center.
A public hearing to get community input on the proposed health district centered around the Essen Lane-Bluebonnet Boulevard-Perkins Road medical corridor will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Perkins Road Community Park. Reservations can be made at BRHealthDistrict.org/RSVP.
Key components that are being looked at include:
Medical education: This involves not only the establishment of a four-year medical school in Baton Rouge, but preparing people for allied health jobs such as nurses, radiation therapists, doctor’s aides and lab technicians. “How do we train all kinds of people for the positions we are going to be needing?” Spain said.
An expanded Our Lady of the Lake College is also part of the discussion, along with programs at LSU that would allow students to earn their medical degree and another degree at the same time. This could let students earn a medical degree and an engineering degree and prepare them for careers in building medical software and telemedicine.
national diabetes/obesity center: The center would play off of research currently being done at Pennington.
“The key is how do we take various parts of the health district — like the Lake, the General, Mary Bird Perkins, Pennington — and get them all working on something in common, to make it larger than the sum of its parts,” Spain said.
Other entities, such as the medical education programs at LSU, Tulane University and Southern University, also would be folded in. The goal would be to develop a nationally recognized clinical research center that would attract doctors and patients from across the nation.
“We think this is a grand opportunity to get the community on the health care map,” Spain said.
Infrastructure: New streets in the corridor could be built, along with enhancing existing roads with sidewalks and bike paths. Spain said this is needed to make the corridor more appealing to the doctors, medical students and researchers the area hopes to attract.
permanent health district: The district would be made up of a governing body representing the leadership from the medical centers and the schools in the area.
“These entities are highly competitive, but there are places where they can work together,” Spain said. This includes solving traffic problems and land planning.
If all goes well, the first printed documents outlining plans for the medical district could surface in November, Spain said.
“A lot of work has been done, but the ideas we have talked about can change and be modified,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.