As sophisticated as American health care has become, a gap still exists between discoveries in basic science laboratories and the actual application of effective new diagnostics, treatments and cures.
By PETE LEVI
Special to The Star
To fill that gap lies a historic opportunity for Jackson County to embrace a visionary, detailed proposal to create a world-class Institute for Translational Medicine in Jackson County that would recruit and employ a team of leading physician scientists to translate discoveries in the laboratory to cutting-edge treatments and cures for diseases, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, childhood diabetes and obesity.
The new Translational Medicine Institute of Jackson County would be created and operated on Hospital Hill as a collaborative partnership between Jackson County and four nationally respected local non-profit institutions: Childrens Mercy Hospital, Saint Lukes Health System, the University of MissouriKansas City Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Nursing and Health Studies, and the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.
Already, civic leader Donald J. Hall Sr., and the Hall Family Foundation, longtime, selfless investors in the local economy, have pledged to pay for construction of a $75 million state-of-the-art research facility to house the Institute, if Jackson County voters on Nov. 5 approve a half-cent sales tax.
This proposed gift represents the very essence of the type of public/private partnership that everyone wants to support. The attempt by those inside and outside the local media to label this as a bribe was simply wrong and uncalled for. The Hall family made a similar pledge to the voters of Johnson County when they were asked and did pass a sales tax for medical research in 2008.
The Hall family and its foundation also proposed a substantial monetary gift if voters approved, which they did, a sales tax for the renovation of our Union Station. Examples of the Hall familys generosity are seen in many facets of our lives, from arts to health care, that make our region a great place to live.
This proposal for medical research in Jackson County is not about bricks and mortar. It is about finding cures to treat and save human beings. Just as a sales tax was important to support in 2011 for the well-being of animals in the zoo, I am confident the voters of Jackson County will see this ballot measure as even more critical for the well-being of the people of our community.
This combined public/private investment is expected to generate more than $30 million in economic output in its first year of operation. The development of new medications, treatments and cures especially in the fields of pediatric and geriatric medicine could induce more than $600 million in direct and indirect economic benefits for Jackson County in the first decade of operation alone.
The benefits of this research, testing and medical advances will reach the people and patients of Jackson County first, providing us with a level of health care services available in few other places.
And the benefits will extend well beyond our backyard thereby elevating Jackson County to the very forefront of the life sciences worldwide.
The vote on Nov. 5 is truly the vote of a lifetime.
Pete Levi of Leawood is a lawyer with the Polsinelli law firm and a former president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City.