UT Southwestern, Children's Health are getting a new 'crown jewel'

Dallas-based Children's Health and UT Southwestern have partnered for some 60 years, and with the population of children in their service area set to double by 2050, they're making plans to meet growing demand for decades to come with a new $5 billion pediatric health campus, set to open in the next six or seven years.

The organizations announced their plans for the project Feb. 7, citing a need to meet growing demand for pediatric care, research and training. 

The more than 33-acre campus will be one of the nation's largest pediatric hospitals, according to Children's Health and UT Southwestern Medical Center. In addition to clinical care, the new campus will facilitate clinical research and advancements in areas such as gene therapy, neuromuscular diseases, metabolic disorders, congenital heart disease research, treatments for rare diseases, oncology, solid organ transplants and neonatology.

Daniel Podolsky, MD, president of UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Christopher Durovich, president and CEO of Children's Health, told Becker's the project plays a role in the biggest changes their organizations have seen in the last year and their vision for the future.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is the biggest way your system has changed in the last year? Looking ahead, do you see those things pivoting in 2024?

Dr. Daniel Podolsky: Much of what can be accomplished is through teamwork and a  multidisciplinary approach to the care we develop across inpatient and outpatient environments. We're coming to grips with the pressures on the expense side that we've seen. Inflation now is moderated. We're still digesting that, which is a challenge to being able to provide that excellent cost-effective care, and setting our path for that long vision. 

We're also preparing for the future, and there's nothing that exemplifies it more than this pediatric campus project. We're in an incredibly dynamic growing environment in Dallas in which the need for healthcare is continuing to grow for pediatric patients, but also across the entire population. So, in terms of effecting that efficiency, it's also an environment where we have to grow to facilitate access. That means increasingly focusing on access away from the main campus so that our care is as close as it can be to the broad communities that we now serve.

Other investments for the future, in conjunction with the state and with great support also from Children's Health, is planning for the future for the behavioral health needs with the construction of a state psychiatric hospital. 

We are dealing with the challenges in front of us and rightsizing our processes, still with the responsibility we have to be there for the growing numbers of children and the rest of the communities in North Texas.

Christopher Durovich: The biggest way that we have evolved in the last year is really the culmination of building upon the 60-year affiliation agreement that we enjoy with UT Southwestern as their principal primary pediatric teaching facility. This is a relationship that was formed in the 1960s. If you fast forward a good almost 60 years, this is an opportune time to refresh, to revisit and to reset in a context of evolving healthcare delivery and financing nationally, statewide and certainly here in our neighborhood. 

With the refreshing of our affiliation agreement in 2019, our board, in conjunction with our colleagues at UT, went into planning mode. And the culmination point was that last November, the board of regents of the University of Texas and last December, the board of directors of Children's Health, both unanimously and enthusiastically approved the opportunity for us to move forward with this $5 billion new pediatric campus. At the same time, this $5 billion campus, the crown jewel of our organization, located in Dallas, where we were founded 110 years ago as the first kid's hospital in the United States south of St. Louis, built upon all that we've been doing across the decades. We find ourselves in the propitious moment of a community that's among the top five fastest-growing communities in the United States. We know that 2.5 million kids call our neighborhood home today. That will grow to 3 million in less than 10 years, and it will double by 2050. So, when we think about the continuum of care from primary through secondary, tertiary and quaternary care, and we think about how that informs our progress to date, it certainly informs how we'll be working together over the next seven years as we make this $5 billion aspiration a reality, to continue our growth and development as a hub of care, as a hub of basic science and applied research, as a hub of education, for not only medical students, residents and fellows, but also for all health professionals.

To get to that, we're going to have to continue to be exceedingly attentive to the revenue and expense models and the care delivery models as we pivot into 2024 and begin that seven-year migration from what we have been successfully historically to how we are best positioned to be successful in 2031 and beyond.

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