The University of Missouri-Kansas City entered into an agreement Friday with Truman Medical Center, Children’s Mercy Hospital and other nearby institutions to transform Hospital Hill into the “UMKC Health Sciences District.”
Leaders of the institutions signed a memo that is more than a rebranding. It signals their intent to work together on things like research, recruiting and security in a pact they hope will make the area a powerhouse of health innovation and economic development.
“The goal is that the UMKC Health Sciences District is the healthiest and safest place to be in Kansas City,” Truman president and CEO Charlie Shields said.
Shields said the idea for the health sciences district was hatched during a Truman Medical strategic planning retreat. Truman already has partnerships with UMKC and Children’s Mercy and extending the relationships seemed natural given how closely clustered the institutions are.
Steven Kanter, the dean of the UMKC School of Medicine, said the potential he saw on Hospital Hill was one of the things that drew him to the job three years ago and he had been thinking of something along the lines of the health district ever since.
“By working together we make ourselves more competitive to recruit top talent to the region,” Kanter said. “That of course leads to a number of other advantages.”
The health district will stretch from East 25th Street to the railroad tracks north of East 22nd Street and from Gillham Road east to Troost Avenue and Harrison Street.
In addition to the UMKC medical school and the two hospitals, the district will also include UMKC’s schools of nursing, pharmacy and dentistry, as well as the Missouri Department of Mental Health’s Center for Behavioral Medicine and the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office.
There are similar districts in places like Oklahoma City, but the leaders of the Kansas City effort believe no other health science cluster in the country brings together the same mix.
“This is really leveraging the skills and talents of all of us and trying to do some things together,” said Karen Cox, the chief operating officer at Children’s Mercy. “Making this a destination.”
The first orders of business under the agreement signed Friday will be to appoint a 20-person board of directors and individual councils dedicated to collaborations in research, interprofessional education and recruiting.
Initially the only difference the general public will see on Hospital Hill is new signage. But the leaders of the initiative said a walking path around the district could be approved in short order and they plan to talk about improving the parking and transportation situation to make the area more user-friendly for the 16,000 people who work on Hospital Hill.
The hope is that commercial development will follow.
“That’s been what happened in other places,” Kanter said.
After starring in a UMKC promotional video in which he serves coffee to students, Kanter said he knows what kind of development he’d like to see first.
“I would be really excited about a coffee shop,” Kanter said.